Chinatown South Still Thrives

“Chinatown has a few different hearts.”

  • The Edmonton Chinese Seniors Lodge and Edmonton Chinese Benevolent Association are two landmark buildings in Chinatown South. Leif Gregersen

  • The Edmonton Chinese Seniors Lodge and Edmonton Chinese Benevolent Association are two landmark buildings in Chinatown South. Leif Gregersen

This summer, members of the Edmonton Chinese Young Leaders Council (ECYLC) organized and led four tours of Edmonton’s Chinatown. Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon, one of the leaders, says the two-hour tours were very popular, attracting about 40 people each time. So the group is planning to offer them again next year. Claudia Wong-Rusnak, Chinatown project manager for the city, is a keen supporter of the ECYLC’s activities. “Young people are the key to Chinatown’s future,” she says.

One of the ads for the ECYLC tours states, “Did you know that Edmonton’s Chinatown is the largest in area of any North American Chinatown? Did you know that Chinatown has a few different hearts?”

Residents of Boyle Street will be interested in the reference to “a few different hearts.” Many people today identify Chinatown as the retail district around 97 Street, north of 105 Avenue. But Chinatown South still thrives – although sometimes struggling – between 95 and 97 Streets, from Jasper Avenue to 102A Avenue.

The first Chinese immigrants to Edmonton at the turn of the 20th century set up their businesses in and around the area where Canada Place now stands. The construction of Canada Place in the early 1980s was disruptive, but efforts to create a replacement home nearby have had some success.

In addition to the seniors’ facilities and several restaurants, Chinatown South is home to the Edmonton Chinatown Multicultural Centre, the Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton, and more.

Wai-Ling Lennon, a volunteer in the Chinese library at the Multicultural Centre, says the centre’s services include social gatherings for games of mah jong, ping pong and other activities, Chinese dance and opera, and Chinese language classes. There is even a Chinese computer club, with computers providing software in Chinese languages.

A highlight of Chinatown South’s annual attractions is a Canada Day event featuring cultural performances and a night market. This wonderful gathering is just one of many activities organized by the Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton.

Wong-Rusnack notes that the city’s Chinatown Strategy report focuses primarily on Chinatown North. However, the report does include this statement: “Successful implementation of this Strategy that focuses efforts on building a strong destination core of activity in Chinatown North will enhance opportunities to bolster Chinatown South and the Chinese Garden in Louise McKinney Park. These places are and will continue to be integral assets to the Chinese community and the Edmonton region …”

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

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