Saving Chinatown: Rousing Dormant Love in Calgarians

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In response to a proposed real estate development in Chinatown, three young Calgarians created the grassroots initiative I love YYC Chinatown.

On April 11th, City council will vote to accept or reject bylaws to amend the Chinatown Area redevelopment plan and a land use bylaw to increase the current maximum development height of 15 storeys to 30 storeys.  Patrick Teoh, Sylvia Leong and Christine Cheung, who are behind the “I love YYC Chinatown” initiative, want to give a voice to citizens that want more public consultation between developers and the community.

Describe My Love for Chinatown is one of the three questions that the group asks everyday citizens in their Facebook photo stories.

  • “Coming here is like visiting an old friend, it’s a place with a long and proud history.” – Tommy, 66
  • “The food, the people, and the interesting architecture all make Chinatown wonderful.” – Cera, 26
  • “It gives me a sense of family being with me and always a very warm sense of belonging.” – Marie Claire Fischer

Sylvia Leong, a born and raised Calgarian, didn’t realize until recently how integral Chinatown is to her identity as a Chinese-Calgarian. From having dim sum every weekend in Chinatown to watching with excitement as the iconic roof of the Chinese Cultural Centre was dropped into place, Chinatown has been an essential backdrop to much of Sylvia’s life.

However, it wasn’t until recently when her friend invited her to the “I love YYC Chinatown” initiative, that Sylvia realized how much Chinatown meant to her.

Through “I love YYC Chinatown”, Sylvia hopes to inspire citizens to come together and co-create their vision for what Chinatown can be. She wants the voices of those who love the community to be heard because “if no one speaks up, it could disappear,” she said.

Her vision for Chinatown is for it to be a vibrant, thriving and walkable community, where anyone, Chinese or not, can explore their roots in one of Calgary’s oldest and most historically significant communities.

The group will be hosting a block party event on April 10 at the Chinese Cultural Centre to showcase the community’s love for Chinatown.  Check out Save Chinatown Calgary on Facebook for more details.


Photo: Norman Leong Photography

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