‘Change Chinatown’: What investments are coming in 2023 to the historic Edmonton neighbourhood

Click to play video: 'After rough 2022, City of Edmonton funding brings hope for better year in Chinatown'
After rough 2022, City of Edmonton funding brings hope for better year in Chinatown
Edmonton's Chinatown is getting some much-needed funding from the city to help with revitalization. As Chris Chacon reports, millions of dollars will go to a new Harbin Gate and various other supports to prevent crime and improve security – Jan 4, 2023

Business owners inEdmonton’s Chinatown area are not yet optimistic about the neighbourhood’s future.

“There’s a sense of apathy. And it takes time to get rid of that sense of apathy,” said Hon Leong of the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative.

It’s been at least a decade of social agencies concentrating in the neighbourhood directly north of the downtown core, the opioid crisis raging, and crime and disorder increasing.

This culminated with the tragic deadly attacks on two men in May, sparking public outrage and demands to invest in the inner city area.

But Leong said funding approved for a handful of initiatives may have a chance at revitalizing the neighbourhood.

“There’s just a multitude of changes that are happening in Chinatown,” said Leong.

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Click to play video: 'Downtown Edmonton issues and the municipal budget'
Downtown Edmonton issues and the municipal budget

More than $10 million was committed to infrastructure improvements in Chinatown in the city’s 2023-2026 capital budget.

Leong said that will look like improving alleyways, lamp posts and lighting — fixes that can improve safety in the area but also make it more pleasant to shop.

“Our businesses are now starting to understand and know that this money is coming and with that there’s a new sense of hope,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton focused on rebuilding Harbin Gates'
Edmonton focused on rebuilding Harbin Gates

Leong said the rebuilding of the Harbin Gate is especially promising to see.

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“These gates, they’re places of belonging… because they would have left the gate back home in China and would have been welcomed into a new gate, a new world a new life in Chinatown in Edmonton,” he said.

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Leong said the gate is also a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

The original Harbin Gate stretched across 102 Avenue east of 97 Street for about thirty years.

It was removed Nov. 2017 to make way for Valley Line LRT construction. It will be relocated to just north of the intersection of Jasper Avenue and 97 Street.

It won’t be the original gate, though, said Tom Girvan, director of downtown vibrancy and safe city for the City of Edmonton.

“The Harbin Gate will be getting a new location and a new design. We’ve been working closely with the city of Harbin during the design process,” he said.

The city also waived parking fees at city-owned spots in the neighbourhood last year and has extended that program to March 31, in a move to encourage Edmontonians to drive to the area.

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“That’s great news for the community and the businesses, so we encourage people to take advantage of that and go visit the businesses in Chinatown,” said Girvan.

Chip Tang, owner of Hong Kong Bakery, said the funding will at least improve the optics of the neighbourhood.

“It’s one step in the right direction because Chinatown has been suffering for quite a while,” said Tang.

However Tang believes some of the issues in the neighbourhood will take more than funding to fix.

“It doesn’t matter how much money comes in here if we still have homeless people, drug addicts walking past here every single day.”

Leong said he won’t say the community is ecstatic and hopeful for the future quite yet, because the streetscape improvements need to come with security and safety improvements.

“That being said, the Healthy Streets Operation Centre (HSOC) is underway, they’re already doing great work,” he said.

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Five million dollars in the next two years was approved for the HSOC, which is set to open this month. EPS started a “soft launch” in October to trial the concept.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton police chief Dale McFee calls 2022 a challenging year'
Edmonton police chief Dale McFee calls 2022 a challenging year

The Edmonton Police Service assigned several officers to areas with “chronically high levels of victimization and crime,” including Chinatown.

The police officers are joined by peace officers and paramedics and in the new year will be joined by firefighters and City of Edmonton community safety liaisons.

The goal of the HSOC is to provide a visible police presence and proactively address the issues associated with homelessness, drug use, crime and victimization, according to police.

“The timing of that, along with these capital investments, should provide us a bit of a trigger, some hope, a spark of life in Chinatown,” said Leong.


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