Almost two decades ago, Vancouver’s Chinatown, then a vibrant and lively place was alerted to the question of – is the addition of a new giant supermarket a good thing for the community?
The answer from all the mom and pop shops, and from almost all of the people who shopped, ate, and worked in Chinatown, was a resounding NO.
City planning department held info meetings describing this large “anchor tenant”. People were told by the city that a giant Asian themed supermarket would be a boon to the old historic area. The city informed its citizens, the new complex was going to bring in large numbers of visitors and tourists to Chinatown. A number of us attended the “community meetings”. I recall questioning the rationale for placing a mega supermarket at the edge of Chinatown, as did my fellow board members at the Dr Sun Yat-sen garden society. We saw our historic community at the cross roads of either being re-energized with a new generation of people and activities, or fade into just a fond memory.
The city presented the scheme and addressed our concerns of traffic issues and assured everyone that the project was within the existing zoning regulations. The city was confident that the giant store would be a magnet. The city planners gushed with enthusiasm along the words of “It would help bring people to Chinatown!”
Vancouver’s Chinatown Merchants’ Association supported the project, and the giant grocery store opened it’s doors in 1996. Shortly afterwards, Vancouver’s Chinatown ebbed onto life support with all sorts of revitalization efforts.
It’s now been over 15 years since the giant Asian supermarket “T & T” has been in Vancouver’s Chinatown. T & T’s website to this day still proudly declares the fact that:
“In 1996, T & T opened its third store in Vancouver Chinatown and brought a modernized retail operation to the traditional mom & pop retail territory.”
Victoria BC, said NO to mega supermarket
The city of Victoria, a number of years back, was also asked if a T & T megamarket could locate in their old Chinatown… the oldest chinatown in Canada. The merchants and families of old Chinatown stood up and said NO to T & T.
Today, Victoria’s Chinatown is still a thriving destination– a place that respects its past and a delight to visit.
Contrast the two Chinatowns. Vancouver’s Chinatown is dead.
For some recent photos we took of Vancouver’s Chinatown, have a look at our posting here (Vancouver Chinatown: ARMPIT of North American Chinatowns)
Do a google street view walk, and count the boarded up shops and stores. Don’t take this blog’s word for it, have a visit and see how far Vancouver’s Chinatown has gone downhill. It’s painful to hear former mom and pop businesses lament about the lack of vision by Vancouver’s city planners and by Chinatown leadership.
Los Angeles’s Chinatown is now currently fighting the arrival of Wal-mart into their historic community. The LA Times report:
L.A. council proposal could keep Wal-Mart grocery out of Chinatown
By David Zahniser and Shan Li,
Los Angeles Times
March 22, 2012
L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes’ proposed law would temporarily block building permits for ‘formula retail’ stores in Chinatown. One critic calls it a ’sneak attack’ against Wal-Mart.
Four weeks after Wal-Mart announced plans to open a grocery store in Chinatown, Los Angeles City Council members have proposed a law that would block an array of chain businesses from opening in the neighborhood.
A temporary ordinance sought by Councilman Ed Reyeswould prohibit building permits from being issued for new “formula retail” stores — those that have standardized facades, color schemes, decor, employee uniforms and merchandise.
Wal-Mart is seeking to open a 33,000-square-foot market and pharmacy in a vacant ground-floor commercial space at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues. But the plan has come under fire from labor and advocacy groups that oppose the company’s wage scale, benefit plans and nonunion workforce.
Reyes said his proposal, scheduled for a vote Friday, would safeguard Chinatown’s small businesses. He said he may rewrite it so that it also addresses the increased traffic that is expected once Wal-Mart opens.
“My intent is to protect the character of Chinatown,” said Reyes, who represents that neighborhood near Dodger Stadium.
… please visit this link for the rest of the LA Times article: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-walmart-chinatown-20120322,0,5804076.story
But it may be too late.
This morning the Rafu Shimpo, Los Angeles’s Japanese Daily news reports:
WAL-MART GETS PERMIT TO BUILD IN CHINATOWN
City Council votes 13-0 for ordinance to block large retail chains in the historic neighborhood.
RAFU STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
The L.A. City Council voted unanimously Friday to draft a law that would effectively ban major retail chains from opening in Chinatown, but would not block a controversial Wal-Mart grocery store that received final approval late Thursday.
The 13-0 vote directed the Planning Department and City Attorney’s Office to draft a temporary ordinance to block so-called formula retail stores, stores that have standardized facades, decor, signage, or a trademark or servicemark.
The ordinance was changed on Friday to apply only to businesses that are larger than 20,000 square feet.
The motion drafted by Councilmember Ed Reyes, who represents Chinatown, had been widely viewed as a move to stop Wal-Mart from opening a 33,000-square-foot scaled-down “neighborhood market” in an existing building containing senior citizen apartments on the northwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues.
However, officials with the Department of Building and Safety told the council Wal-Mart had been issued its final tenant improvement permit about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, clearing a final hurdle for Wal-Mart to open and shielding the store from the proposed ordinance.
The move was supported by the Chinatown Business Improvement District and a handful of residents, who argued Chinatown already has four family-owned grocery stores and that major retail chains would destroy the neighborhood’s unique character.
Opponents of the ordinance, including the Los Angeles Area and Chinatown chambers of commerce, said the ordinance would have a chilling effect on businesses interested in moving to the city.
Once it is drafted, the ordinance will need the approval of the Planning Commission and the full City Council.
During a press conference prior to the vote, approximately 50 opponents of Wal-Mart gathered on the steps of City Hall to protest the store’s expansion plans. The group says that 3 supermarkets, dozens of smaller markets, 12 bakeries and 4 pharmacies would be put into direct competition with Wal-Mart.
“Wal-Mart has claimed that small business like mine will actually gain sales but my family and I don’t agree,” said Chris Cheung, owner of Wonder Bakery.
Cheung noted that his family has operated the bakery on Broadway since 1985 and also contributes to the community through donations to Alpine Recreational Center and other institutions.
“Wal-Mart is proposing one-stop shopping meaning customers will buy groceries, bakery goods there. Our sales at our shop will decline because Wal-Mart will offer a price that will undercut us and sell the same products as we do.”
The protesters were joined by Rep. Judy Chu (D-San Gabriel) and Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-San Gabriel), who added their support for the temporary ordinance.
please visit Rafu Shimpo’s website for the rest of the news: http://rafu.com/news/2012/03/wal-mart-gets-permit-to-build-in-chinatown/