Vancouver Chinatown may be lit in neon again, with $2.2-million revitalization grant

·2 min read

Vancouver Chinatown's once-iconic array of storefront neon lights may soon return, after B.C.'s government announced a one-time grant towards such revitalization projects.

British Columbia Premier David Eby says the $2.2-million funding package will support renewal efforts in historic Chinatown, like the restoration of the neon that once dominated the neighbourhood.

The funding will also support storefront renewals and upgrades to the Chinese Cultural Centre, but no further details have been released on what changes will be made.

Eby says the new funding will help Chinatown "realize the clear plan that this community has to revitalize the neighbourhood for residents, for visitors and for businesses."

Vancouver Chinatown Foundation chair Carol Lee says the announcement is a "turning point" for the neighbourhood because it creates a catalyst for sustainable economic revitalization, signalling to visitors that Chinatown is once again "the place to be."

Lee says the foundation and other community groups have worked to spur economic development along with social and physical revitalization, but efforts had been "fleeting" up to this point.

Chinatown has been the focus of a number of revitalization efforts in recent months after concerns about crime levels and lower foot traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, Vancouver city council approved a new flat parking rate of $2 per hour at meters across the neighbourhood, starting on June 1.

Lee says the fact that community members continue to try revitalizing Chinatown demonstrates the historic neighbourhood's resiliency and will.

"Despite the neighbourhood's decline and many challenges, people still love Chinatown and want to see it revitalized," Lee says.

Chinatown's business leaders say a slew of new, non-Chinese businesses have brought life to the community over the last decade, but the neighbourhood must also work to maintain its cultural heritage to sustain its unique character.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2023.

Chuck Chiang, The Canadian Press