There have been many heated discussions over the possible redevelopment that is planned for the site of 105 Keefer Street, adjacent to the Chinatown Workers Memorial. This has led Vancouver East MP, Jenny Kwan from NDP, to hold a press conference on Wednesday at the Memorial statue in Chinatown along with representatives of many other Chinese organizations such as the Chinese Benevolent Association, Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, Chinatown Concern Group, and the Chinese Canadian Military veterans. They oppose the purely commercial redevelopment plans that have been proposed in the heart of Chinatown. The purpose of this press conference was also to ask all three levels of government to purchase this site in order to build more housing for seniors, as well as create more community facilities.
Apart from Jenny Kwan, those who attended the press conference included Vice-Chair of the Chinese Benevolent Association, James Chu, Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations Executive President, Wang Dianqi, Chinese Canadian Military Museum President Emeritus, Howe Lee, Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada president, Kelly Kwong, Chinatown Concern Group spokesperson King-mong Chan, members of the public and Chinese veterans totalling a group of 20 people.
During the press conference, Jenny Kwan stated that the Memorial is the heart of Vancouver Chinatown, and that it has a very deep and important meaning for the Chinese community of Vancouver. She reiterates how important it is for all three levels of government to respect this land, and to reconsider the meaning that this site has for the past and present generations of the Chinese community. She also stated that when the House of Commons is in session again in September, she will make an effort to make this a point of discussion during the meetings.
James Chu said that Chinatown was built from the efforts of early Chinese immigrants, and is evidence of Chinese Canadian history. He said while CBA supports development in Chinatown, they also value the preservation of this historic neighbourhood’s culture, and hopes that three levels of government can work together to make this site on Keefer Street something that maintains its original cultural distinctness and allows Chinatown to continue to thrive for the next hundred years.
Wang Dianqi states, although the majority of his organization’s members are new immigrants, it is important to recognize that the status and privileges that today’s Chinese Canadians enjoy are due to the sweat and blood of the first Chinese immigrants and pioneers. He is 100% supportive of the governments’ purchase of this site, and if necessary, he would rally Chinese business owners to support this effort financially too.
Lily Tang from the Chinatown Concern Group shares that she has lived in Chinatown for many years and feels that the recent developments in Chinatown have been occurring too rapidly. Small businesses cannot survive, and residents complain, “they don’t have anywhere to shop anymore”. She thinks that it is not suitable for a developer to build a high-rise development next to the memorial, she hopes that the government will purchase the land to provide housing for seniors so that they are not without homes.
It was also brought up during the press conference that the National Trust of Canada has named Vancouver’s Chinatown as one of Canada’s top 10 most endangered sites. If developers were to successfully redevelop the site directly adjacent to the Chinese Workers Memorial into a condominium building, the pace of Chinatown’s loss of distinct cultural heritage will be accelerated and will eventually be gentrified.
In May of 2016, Beedie Living submitted a redevelopment proposal to the City of Vancouver, in which the proposal included 25 units of affordable housing out of 127 units that will be built.