Concern group worries gentrification could lead to loss of traditional storefronts
Ming Pao A8 August 21, 2016
The worry about gentrification and the loss of more Chinese storefronts is being raised once again following the sale of a street corner building in Chinatown that could be demolished and rebuilt as a nine or even 12-storey tower.
Despite repeated fights and ongoing calls for more affordable housing and saving more low-rent storefronts in Chinatown, the situation has been getting worse and Chinatown is becoming less and less affordable particularly for those low-income Chinese seniors, according to Wai-on [Leung] of the Chinatown Concern Group.
Tucked behind Toronto City Hall’s curved towers, on Elizabeth Street, is a modest patch of greenery outfitted with bright red benches and blossoming tulips. It’s from this spot — once a parking lot— that historian Arlene Chan reconstructs an image of Toronto’s first Chinatown.
Chan draws on a mix of personal history and research to inform her audience, who joined her Heritage Toronto tour of Old Chinatown on May 14. A librarian turned writer, Chan offers a glimpse into the lives of the city’s early Chinese immigrants.
“Why was there a Chinatown? Why was there such a tight-knit community?” asks Chan, before answering her own question. “It was because the Chinese were isolated. ”
The lot near the corner of Keefer and Quebec streets is no historic gem. Once the site of a garage, it is now covered with gravel and a smattering of parked cars.
But it has turned into a Waterloo for Vancouver’s Chinatown, with a wide range of groups viewing whatever is built there as the indicator species for the future of this small historic neighbourhood.
At the heart of the debate are these questions: Are some buildings just too big for Chinatown? And what will do more to improve this beleaguered area, which has been losing businesses and vitality since the 1970s – more social housing for the poor or more market condos to attract the middle class?