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Tomorrow’s Chinatown plan adopted by Calgary city council

The document combines a cultural plan and an area redevelopment plan to chart Chinatown's course over the next 30 years.

Tomorrow’s Chinatown moves one step closer to reality, after receiving initial approval from Calgary city council.

The matter was brought forward at Tuesday’s Combined Meeting of Council, where the cultural plan was approved and area redevelopment plan received first reading. It will receive second and third reading after getting approval from the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board at their next meeting.

The plan is the city’s first to combine a cultural plan with area redevelopment to ensure the two are intertwined for the next 30 years. It also prescribed the renaming of the James Short Park and Parkade to Harmony Park and Parkade.

“The first thing that the cultural plan does is acknowledges the history, heritage and culture of what Chinatown is, both in terms of how it looks and how it’s going to be built, but also how it’s going to be enjoyed and lived by people who live there, work there and do business there,” said Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong.

Wong was the former executive director of the Chinatown District Business Revitalization Zone before being elected to council. He said the cultural plan will influence future development in the area to ensure it is culturally appropriate.

“By doing that, it also reflects the architecture that private builders and developers will get into in terms of the articulation of the doorways to windows the roof trims and that sort of thing to give it again that Asian motif,” he said.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Chinatown’s story is one of hardship and perseverance.

“Over the years, Chinatown has contributed so much toward making downtown Calgary a thriving destination, and these plans reflect what we can accomplish together in creating tomorrow’s Chinatown,” she said.

Other cities envious of Calgary: Retired prof

Lloyd Sciban, a former professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Calgary, said he’s proud of the city’s work on Tomorrow’s Chinatown. Sciban also sat on the advisory committee that helped steer work on the plan.

He said he recently participated in a lecture on the battle of Chinatowns in Calgary with reps from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. 

“The participants were envious of what’s been achieved here by the city in terms of support for Chinatown,” he said.

Sciban said he looks at it from the perspective of alternative values that can embrace the mainstream in the city.

“If that’s going to be maintained, they have to have some way in which they can maintain that culture, preserve it,” Sciban said.

“So, for them themselves to maintain their identity and what it’s meant for them – survival of the 100 years that they’ve been in Calgary, that’s important.”

Both city administration and Coun. Wong applauded the way the community came together through consultation on the plan. More community members came out to a brief public hearing on the matter Tuesday.

“When planning culturally, it’s necessary to consider how people, place and culture connect,” said Fazeel Elahi, Local Area Planning Coordinator at The City of Calgary and Tomorrow’s Chinatown Project Manager.

“The relationship between these three pillars can’t be understood on their own and is reflected in the updated Chinatown Area Redevelopment Plan.”

Wong said money was set aside in the last budget to help the community celebrate the cultural plan. They’ll be doing so on July 1, 2023. That commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Immigration Act, which restricted citizenship, mobility and education and the ability for people to bring their families over from China. It was also when a $500 head tax was implemented.