Vancouver’s Chinatown seeing change 6 months after new mayor elected on revitalization pledge

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s Chinatown business owners and residents say situation improving'
Vancouver’s Chinatown business owners and residents say situation improving
Six months after the election of the ABC Vancouver city council majority, Global News takes a look at the progress being made on one key promise, the cleanup of Chinatown. Kristen Robinson reports – Apr 18, 2023

More than six months since Vancouver voters elected a new mayor who promised to prioritize Chinatown and public safety, residents and business owners are seeing some improvements.

“There’s a lot less chaos on our streets,” said Tracy To, a second generation owner-operator of Forum Home Appliances.

“Our streets are much cleaner than what they used to be. They’re much safer than what they used to be, now we just need people to come.”

Dollar Meat Store owner Joey Wong, whose family business has been in Chinatown for 52 years, said he’s hopeful more change is on the way.

“Overall Chinatown has been cleaner than it was, but there’s still room for improvement.”

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Click to play video: 'Vancouver police install public safety trailer in Chinatown'
Vancouver police install public safety trailer in Chinatown

The community which struggled with crime, street disorder and anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, is seeing the early results of the ABC majority council’s $2.2 million Chinatown Action Plan to help revitalize the area, with a focus on cleaning and sanitation.

“I’m finally happy to see our tax money is spent on our community now,” New Town Bakery owner Susanna Ng said.

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“Our voice has been heard now.”

Click to play video: 'Help is on the way for Vancouver’s Chinatown'
Help is on the way for Vancouver’s Chinatown

Work is also underway on Ken Sim’s pledge to put a city office in Chinatown, where he and his council can engage with people on the ground.

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The storefront in the city-owned Chinatown Plaza complex on Keefer Street is getting a “modest upgrade” according to the Mayor’s Office, and will be ready in five to six weeks.

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung with ABC Vancouver said it makes sense to have the mayor and council in Chinatown on a regular basis so they can hear directly from residents, business owners, cultural groups and seniors to understand what’s happening in the community.

“We know that we’re digging out from some really significant issues and years, quite frankly, of underinvestment in Chinatown so it’s going to continue to take some work — but our focus is on that,” Kirby-Yung told Global News in an interview Tuesday.

But amid cautious optimism, there are concerns an arsonist may be targeting the area.

The Vancouver Police Department has deployed its public safety trailer with surveillance cameras in response to recent crimes, including two arsons at the Chinese Cultural Centre.

Const. Tania Visintin with the VPD said it’s still too early to say if the March 26 and April 13 fires at the rear of the cultural institution are connected.

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“However, these two fires happened so closely together and again to the Chinese Cultural Centre, this is a neighbourhood that’s endured so much over the last few years, so we are pulling out all the stops,” Visintin said.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver City Council approves plan to revitalize Chinatown'
Vancouver City Council approves plan to revitalize Chinatown

Police said the cameras are in place to help deter additional incidents and maintain public safety. They are not monitored 24/7, but the footage can be reviewed if a crime occurs.

“The main thing that we’re still looking for is security,” Wong said.

“Every time we have a fire in Chinatown or a beating or a killing, that kind of just kicks it back down a bit.”

Wong said he would like to see more police on the streets or more funding around the clock security.

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Chinatown he said, will only improve, when people start feeling safe.

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