Chinatown to Boost Downtown Vibrancy
The Chinatown and Area Business Improvement Association’s economic recovery program continues to gain “steam” – and not just from power washing sidewalks.
While only three months into the Chinatown Solution, a long-term project to revitalize the area, the change has been remarkable. The solution starts with cleanliness, pure and simple. After washing all of the sidewalks and storefront windows in Chinatown on a bi-weekly basis, shoppers and shop owners have felt the change on the street. This partnership program has now been expanded to include vacant lot and alleyway cleaning. We believe that the best recovery is grassroots recovery and we are providing a level playing field for commerce to thrive in an environment where people are safe and want to visit and shop. We believe in the free economy and it is important to note that we did not have to market to people – they were waiting to come to us and have been very vocal about the difference they see.
The BIA began closely working in unison with our partners months ago with the goal of achieving a better community. We are trying every good idea and concept to make a positive difference for all in Chinatown and we proudly acknowledge that “all” includes not only businesses and residents, but also the social agencies and the people in need of services from these agencies and, of course, all Edmontonians.
Our actions are well thought out and we have moved slowly to ensure that our economic recovery is done right with caring, with reason, and with results. We feel that success only comes if every single person in the Chinatown area shares in the benefits of having their quality of life improve.
We have had our struggles to get where we are today. I would personally like to thank the Chinatown and area community for joining in the memorial for Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang on May 19th, when we honoured two men who were killed in a terrible tragedy that must never be allowed to happen again. One of the most poignant moments at that memorial came from Christina Trang when she said, “I want my father to be remembered as a catalyst of change in Chinatown, to bring back safety and restore this once great community.” Paying respect on that day were shop owners, visitors, EPS, Sheriffs, EMS, the Mayor and City Councillors, and people referred to as “houseless” who are currently calling Chinatown home. This loss touched all of us in the community and this loss binds us together. Christina, I believe that your wishes for your father are being fulfilled.
The Chinatown and Area Business Improvement Association continues to publicly applaud the City of Edmonton for their initiatives to revitalize the downtown core. It is the right “first step” to healing Edmonton. Look no further than Chinatown for the proof. We were the worst affected area in downtown Edmonton.
Further changes are planned in the coming months. We are well along the way to restoring safety and security and plan to “Disney up” Chinatown by installing year-round lanterns across 97th Street – and a few other surprises. We want Edmontonians to be proud of Chinatown – that is our goal. After all, this is your Chinatown and it does not exist without you.
In addition to sidewalk and window cleaning we have added clearly signposted areas in Chinatown that will remain open to allow for regular cleaning and easy foot traffic. The “Chinatown Solution” includes everybody but it is much more – it is based on respect and it involves all in the community.
Over the past eight weeks we have made great strides improving Chinatown with a simple homegrown solution that works. We have alleviated many of the unique problems that face Chinatown and have improved the quality of life for all in our community. This has increased commerce and provided dozens of people in need of an opportunity to re-enter the work force and to regain a sense of pride and community belonging.
The Chinatown Solution has exceeded all of our expectations and we will continue to expand its scope. It does not fix everything but it is a model that other communities should consider following. Our success is measured by our results, and we have seen exceptional results with increased vibrancy, a strong community partnership with all residents of our community and, of course, a very clean and welcoming Chinatown.
We could not have accomplished this without the dedicated work of Hope Mission’s staff and the wonderful people in their recovery program. We wish you continued success and Chinatown is proud to be a part of your journey.
The City has taken the steps in the right direction, but downtown Edmonton and Chinatown still have much work to do. Chinatown is proud to have a lead role to play in Edmonton’s downtown vibrancy and recovery.
Stephen Hammerschmidt is the Chinatown and Area BIA’s Director of Economic Recovery.