It’s been 30 years since the downtown community known as Chinatown went under the microscope. In the 80s, there was a vision for the community with a major plan drawn up and implemented. The City of Calgary has decided that it’s time for a makeover, especially since Chinatowns in many major North American cities are struggling to remain viable and even livable.
Councilor Druh Farrell has 100% backing from all council members to look at drawing up an area redevelopment plan for the neighbourhood with is on the south side of Bow River at the foot of the Centre Street Bridge.
Farrell says she has seen firsthand how many culturally rich inner-city neighbourhoods such as Chinatown have been left to languish in other cities. She believes it’s important to keep the character of Calgary’s historic Chinese neighbourhood and provide modern amenities and updates.
The area redevelopment plan created in 1986 may have worked in its era but it contains rigid rules and ultimately didn’t pave the way for successful outcomes. Development throughout the downtown core has been progressive and ongoing, and now that type of activity should be happening in Chinatown, according to Farrell.
Area businesses have notice that fewer people are coming to shop or dine in Chinatown, particularly in the evening. Many would like to see the City of Calgary make Chinatown more attractive, esthetically and in terms of safety.
Transit through Chinatown
Hand in hand with the proposed redevelopment of the area is the pending approval about whether the north-central route for the Green Line of the LRT will come across the river on the Centre Street Bridge into Chinatown. Either that or a brand new bridge will be constructed to the west of the Centre Street bridge which will empty into a tunnel under the city or on a track elevated above 2 St SW. City council is also thinking about putting a tunnel under the river and constructing a downtown subway.
No matter which route the city takes, Chinatown will be impacted. Infrastructure and the needs of those people that call Chinatown home need to be considered. The community has made it clear that it does not want the LRT to divide the neighbourhood.
Is Chinatown a priority?
This downtown community isn’t the only one that needs an area redevelopment plan, but there are some specific reasons why attention should be paid to the neighbourhood soon.
The first is because 30-year-old development plans are no longer relevant as the vision for the community has changed. Pressure from development surrounding the area is keeping the community outdated, unsafe and is perhaps ghetto-izing the area. The East Village and Eau Claire areas have received a lot of attention in the past 10 years. Chinatown is overdue.
Council will be looking at Chinatown and hopes to get a scope of work for the neighbourhood completed by the end of 2016.
Nearly 2,000 people live in Chinatown and a third of them are senior citizens.