Businesses unite to work towards Chinatown revitalization

CALGARY — Members of one of Calgary’s oldest communities, Chinatown, are uniting to form a business revitalization zone, in hopes of becoming a more vibrant part of downtown.

“Chinatown has for a long time needed to revitalize,” said Terry Wong, a member of the Chinatown BRZ Committee. “As you can see in the region, the downtown has developed significantly over the last ten years (but) Chinatown has not.”

The problem has been discussed for years, and reached crisis level after the 2013 flood.

“Chinatown hasn’t fully recovered from the flood and they needed a cohesive voice in order to bring the businesses together,” said Coun. Druh Farrell, who represents the ward.

For over a century, Calgary has been home to the fourth largest Chinatown in Canada, with over 200 businesses.

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The BRZ committee said changing demographics in the community offer the opportunity to explore new ideas, without losing its unique character.

“Revitalizing the streetscape to make it look a lot more ‘Asian’, if I can use that term,” Wong said.

The group also wants to increase the variety of shops and restaurants in the area.

“The third thing is make it more of a destination, not just for tourists, but also residents here and residents outside who can enjoy peace, harmony and prosperity in Chinatown,” Wong added.

The Calgary Downtown Association (CDA) believes the entire city can benefit from a revitalized Chinatown.

“I think it shows a great commitment from the business community in Chinatown to revitalize that area and make it more of a destination which is what we all hope for,” CDA executive director Maggie Schofield said.

The Chinatown BRZ will also look for ways to change the Area Development Plan in an effort to create business opportunities, such as turning back alleys into “magical places where you can dine and shop,” Farrell said.

It’s a concept that has worked well in for Chinatowns in Victoria and San Francisco.

Farrell said once the BRZ is established, she will appeal to City Council’s Innovation Fund to set up a Chinatown retail strategy, to help businesses adapt.

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A city committee today approved the application.

Council will vote on the new BRZ tax rate that will pay for the program.

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