Business owners and residents in Edmonton’s Chinatown are pushing for changes to improve the area they say has seen an increase in social disorder.
Fion Le has run an herbal medicine store along 98 Street for more than 20 years. She says the number of derelict buildings and amount of drug use has increased lately.
“We have lots of needles we have to pick up ourselves because this is private property,” Le explained.
Still, Le told Global News she decided to spend $1 million building a new store in the area in early 2019. The building has her retail space on the ground floor and an apartment on the top level.
“It takes lots of forethought because we’ve been here in this neighbourhood for over 20 years and we thought it’s a good potential to invest in this area,” she said.
It’s just one example of what the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative wants to see. The group is pushing for better storefronts and more unique infrastructure like pagoda-shaped buildings.
The group would also like to see wider sidewalks lined with trees and lights to make people feel more comfortable walking in the area at night.
A presentation to city councillors by the Chinatown Business Association said only 25 per cent of patrons feel safe in the area as it is.
“Chinatown has been forgotten for quite some time with the city strategy, but they have stepped up and it’s not too late,” said Sandy Pon with the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative.
Pon said Ice District and updates to the Quarters have left Chinatown stuck in the middle of a growing city centre.
LISTEN BELOW: Sandy Pon joins the 630 CHED Afternoon News
She believes replacing the Harbin Gate will help. The familiar structure was removed for LRT construction. A new one will have to be made as the old one is too narrow to go over 97 Street.
The new gate is expected to be completed by 2022.
“Chinatown, it’s more of the cultural significance for many Canadian Chinese. They find they have more destination stores here like us,” Le told Global News, adding she hopes the transformation begins soon so she can see a return on her investment.
LISTEN BELOW: Ian O’Donnell with the Downtown Business Association joins the 630 CHED Afternoon News