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Some residents fear gentrification is erasing Toronto’s Chinatown

Residents fear gentrification could erase Toronto’s Chinatown
WATCH ABOVE: Residents fear gentrification could erase Toronto’s Chinatown. Morganne Campbell reports.

Chinatown is changing more than ever before.

There are numerous residential and commercial developments underway, and the rapid changes aren’t going unnoticed by those who call that part of Toronto home.

“This gentrification is not only affecting the businesses and the restaurants that you see around here but it’s also impacting the people and the community,” explains Mike Carter, a tour guide with Urban Adventures Toronto. He’s lived in the Spadina and Dundas area for nearly a decade.

Gentrification is essentially changing the character of a neighbourhood through the influx of new residents and developments.

It’s exactly what’s happening in Chinatown. Businesses are closing, condos are being built, and the entire neighbourhood appears to be getting a slow but steady facelift.

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“Cities always change. You can look at like cities like New York, Chicago and Toronto it was no different. There’s always transition, there’s always going to be a little bit of gentrification. At the same time though, we have to sort of fight for our local businesses and our local culture,” adds Carter.

The latest business to be picked up by a developer is Rol San, a famous staple for dim sum in the city.

But some in Chinatown view certain changes as necessary for a growing community.

According to the chair of the Chinatown Business Improvement Area, a proposal has been put forward to build a 13-storey rental building with 200 units where Rol San currently stands.

“You can have all the businesses you want but if you don’t have any consumers coming into your area spending money, you’re not going to make it. So that’s why I think having more people come into the area is a positive thing,” explains Tonny Louie with the BIA.

Louie says Chinatown is attractive to developers.

READ MORE: Chinatown businesses push for revitalization

There are reasonable purchase prices on some properties that haven’t been maintained over the years, in addition to the subway line that’s been extended to Vaughan.

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“Nothing ever gets to be status quo. Things are always changing,” said Louie.

“The question is how fast is it changing and we have to be careful in opposing any changes because then we’re telling people we’re not welcoming (them) to the area,” adds Louie

“I think it’s important people see there’s opportunity in Chinatown to develop Chinatown over a period of time, but slowly.”

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Chinatown isn’t the only part of the city dealing with gentrification.

Greektown, Koreatown, Little Italy and Portugal are all dealing with the same type of growing pains.