Chinatown · History · urban design · Vancouver

Considering Chinatown: boundaries, impacts and going slow & messy

Chinatown’s boundary has been shaped by many factors beyond the community’s control. Industry on False Creek, rail yards, ship yards crowded the southern edge. In the 1960s the edge is defined by the freeway planning that creates the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. To the east, urban renewal truncates the neighbourhood at Gore removing businesses, clan associations and residents key to the community.

Chinatown today is a product of these impacts, which has given it a clearly defined, albeit a slightly unnatural, boundary.


Given the constraints of the boundary, we now need to be think very carefully about how development happens. All of the easy bits have been or will be redeveloped. What we have left is the finer grained, smaller scaled neighbourhood that gives Chinatown its character and life. The trick is to  work with this cultural landscape that needs nurturing and care.


So how do we do, as Andy Yan promotes, “slow and messy urbanism” that allows the neighbourhood to evolve, adapt and survive vs being wiped off the map except for a bit of Pender Street?

Let’s hit pause, and take in the surrounding area and coming development and ask, do we really need to pile on the density in this fragile community, given Northeast False Creek, the removal of the Viaducts and the looming St. Pauls…

  • the gifs are from a presentation on the history of Chinatown and its development


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