Harbin Gate Makes Way for LRT

  • The Harbin Gate. Leif Gregersen

The Harbin Gate at 97 Street and 102 Avenue is being dismantled to make way for construction of the Valley Line (southeast) LRT. This large and elaborate structure includes two lion statues, eight steel columns painted the traditional Chinese red, and an arch roof featuring 11,000 tiles that were individually handcrafted and glazed in China.

The gate was created in 1987 by a team of Chinese and Canadian designers and craftspeople. Materials and construction expertise were donated by Edmonton’s sister city Harbin, China. In 2013, the gate was included in a series of commemorative stamps featuring Chinatown gates in eight Canadian cities.

The partnership responsible for the LRT project, TransEd, hopes to have the dismantling completed by the end of April. TransEd will first remove and store the lion statues and decorative elements, and then take down and transport this very large structure in three sections. The City’s plans are to reconstruct this ornate and unique structure in a new location, to be decided by Edmonton’s Chinese community in consultation with the City of Harbin.

Some people are concerned about potential damage to the gate materials. Sue Heuman, TransEd communications manager, says, “The work crews are very aware of the significance of the gate and are being as careful as possible. We will carefully remove the tiles and ornamental pieces first and do everything we can to preserve all of the components.”

The Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton has stated that its preferred location would be 97 Street and 101A Avenue, near Canada Place. Edmonton’s original Chinatown, which began in 1890, was in that area, near the original location of the Harbin Gate. In the late 1980s, the community was disrupted by the construction of Canada Place. At that time, the City planned for future development of Chinatown to the east of 97 Street, between 102 Avenue and Jasper Avenue. Over the past three decades many Chinese businesses have chosen instead to locate north of 103A Avenue, but heritage Chinatown remains an important centre for cultural events.

Regarding future plans, City Councillor Scott McKeen says, “I am absolutely committed to seeing the gateway returned, and I am sure the mayor feels the same way. The gate is an important symbol of Chinese history in Edmonton. The City of Edmonton is duty-bound to do this.”

The Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton was not available for comment at the time of publication.

Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who moved to Boyle Street three years ago and loves her new community.

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