A Main Street Community in Vancouver, BC
One of the fastest-growing neighborhoods within Vancouver is Chinatown, an area whose history is threaded through the history of Vancouver all way back to the 1800’s. Chinatown is a diverse and multi-cultural neighborhood. In the early 1980’s, the area was an epicenter of Chinese culture within Vancouver, featuring traditional Chinese restaurants, temples, gardens and businesses that drew in tourists and locals alike.
While Chinatown is no longer the largest Cantonese Chinese community in Vancouver, the cultural and business rebirth taking place is a healthy and much-needed change for the area. With trendy bars and popular restaurants moving into the neighborhood, as well as a variety of convenient services and goods, the area is drawing in a more diverse group of individuals and is alive in a way it hasn’t been since the 1980’s. The center of Chinatown is Pender Street, and it is bordered by Gastown, the financial and central business districts of Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside, and what was once old Japantown. Strathcona is Chinatown’s neighbor to the east.
Current city initiatives are going a long way toward helping Chinatown thrive, including hiring private security to improve safety, creating new marketing campaigns, the restoration and renovation of various heritage buildings in the neighborhood, as well as reusing some of the most distinctive Association buildings. As an example of the old blending with the new, the OMNI British Columbia television studio called Chinatown home between 2003 and 2010 while the Vancouver office of Sing Tao Daily (one of four Chinese dailies in the city) is located there.
About 40% of Chinatown’s population (1,277 people) identify as “Chinese,” with the remaining residents representing a multicultural group including Japanese individuals, ethnic Germans, and those with British and American heritage. Just 20% of residents own their homes, while most live in multi-family apartments which are convenient and affordable for young families as well as retirees.
One of the largest employers in Vancouver is the Port of Vancouver; North America’s highest-performing port for foreign exports and the second highest-performing port on the west coast for total cargo volume. It is responsible for more than 69,200 jobs in all.
Industrial services account for a high number of jobs as well; the Vancouver area is home to numerous manufacturing and processing plants. It’s interesting to note that Vancouver has recently expanded to become a center for software development and biotechnology, and the vivid streets and rich backdrops of the city have won over film studios who have moved into the area. Other important industries include finance, business, and wholesale trade.
One of the biggest benefits of Chinatown transforming into a melting pot of cultures and traditions is the huge array of delicious foods available in the neighborhood. Whether it’s traditional Chinese cuisine residents are craving or a platter of freshly cooked seafood, this neighborhood has it all. Phnom Penh is an extremely trendy and hot restaurant, offering up flavorful Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes like butter beef and chicken wings. The perfect way to honor Chinatown’s diversity is by having dinner at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, featuring traditional Chinese food with a Western kick. Fresh, healthy and bursting with flavor, the Vietnamese subs and sandwiches at the Ba Le Sandwich Shop are a must-try.
Getting into, out of and around Chinatown is relatively easy; the city has provided a few different options, including the TransLink buses that travel a number of routes around Vancouver. Stops can be found along Columbia Street, East Hastings Street, Main Street, and East Pender Street. Many residents prefer to walk or bike around the neighborhood, since amenities and services are very close to a majority of those living in Chinatown. The Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 99 (merging into I-5 going into the United States) are the most popular routes for leaving or entering Vancouver. Those who prefer to drive around the neighborhood can do so as well; metered parking is available along most streets in Chinatown.
Children in the Chinatown neighborhood attend Lord Strathcona Elementary School, which is noteworthy for being the oldest public school in Greater Vancouver. Within close proximity to Chinatown is a slew of adult-learning facilities including Vancouver Community College, the Vancouver School of Method Acting, and the Vancouver Film School. Other options include language training facilities, culinary schools, real estate training schools, and music and art schools.
Speaking of the arts, Chinatown is a fantastic area to live for someone who really appreciates all forms and styles of art. Numerous galleries are located in or around the neighborhood, featuring all styles and types of art. One outstanding gallery that calls Chinatown home is the Wing Sang Building. The oldest building in Chinatown, it’s a Victorian Italianate structure on Pender Street, and was constructed in the year 1889 for a prominent businessman named Yip Sang. Additions in 1901 and 1912 by Mr. Sang created an alley stretched between two elevated passageways, which at one time was the famed Market Alley. Numerous shops and services were available. Recent restoration and renovation have taken place on the building, and it has been preserved as a private exhibition for the Rennie Collection.
Residents craving a leisurely stroll to enjoy nature can take advantage of the Dr. Sun Yet-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, where gorgeous stone pathways lead visitors alongside sparkling ponds of jade, traditional tings and halls, and breathtaking greenery. It is also host to numerous cultural and musical events, celebrations and festivals throughout the year. The Chinese New Year parade and festival is held around January or February every year, drawing in more than 3,000 performers and 50,000 visitors. The celebrations include fireworks, banquets, ceremonies, and more.
Interested residents can take advantage of the Chinatown Night Market, from May to September each year, when streets are blocked off and a late-night bazaar takes over. Visitors can find fun gifts, novelty items, electronics, and so much more. Browsers enjoy the karaoke singers and delicious food served up by a variety of vendors.
Investing in Chinatown Real Estate
Between the 2006 and 2011 census reports, Chinatown experienced a 17% increase in population. As the city continues to focus on making the neighborhood safer, more affordable and better all around, the interest in the area will continue to increase. Not only will a thriving, successful neighborhood create a happier population, but it will drive up the values of properties all throughout the area. Chinatown has something to offer everyone; a wonderfully rich history and excellent traditions, and the perfect location for enjoying the small-town feel of the area in combination with the ability to access virtually any amenity one could want with a relatively short drive. ■