Continuing its efforts to restore and revitalize Chinatown, the City of Vancouver will be opening a satellite office within Chinatown, and it's set to open to the public in July.
The Chinatown office will be located on 112 Keefer Street within the Chinatown Plaza shopping mall, across the street from the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum.
The new satellite office will make City services more accessible to members of the community, with full-time staff proficient in Mandarin and/or Cantonese. The office will also act as a base to coordinate the City's ongoing efforts to revitalize Chinatown. BC Assessment records list the unit at 1,240 sq. ft.
The upkeep, safety, and vibrancy of Chinatown was one of the top issues in the past municipal elections, including the first official mayoral candidate debate.
Shortly after the election, Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung introduced a motion titled "Urgent Measures to Uplift Vancouver's Chinatown," which proposed several actions "to help return vibrancy to this important neighbourhood," one of which was the estalishment of a satellite office "within the City-owned Chinatown Plaza, or within another City-owned property or reasonable alternative."
"Vancouver’s Chinatown is a cultural gem and holds an irreplaceable place in the fabric of our city and in the hearts and minds of Vancouver residents," said Kirby-Yung.
Kirby-Yung pointed out that Vancouver's Chinatown community was established even before Vancouver was incorporated, is considered the largest Chinatown in Canada, and has been a designated National Historic Site since June 2010. (It was actually designated in July 2011, according to the Government of Canada website.)
She said that Chinatown was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, both from businesses shuttering or being vandalized as well as a 400% increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes, and that investment -- figuratively and literally -- is needed to uplift the small legacy businesses and cultural organizations in the area that "make Chinatown what it is."
Also proposed in Kirby-Yung's motion was enhanced street-cleaning and the amendment of bylaws that ultimately penalize business owners that repeatedly fall victim to nuisance and graffiti.
Mayor Ken Sim and Councillor Lenny Zhou are also set to introduce a motion to the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities on Wednesday regarding the naming of the new City of Vancouver Chinatown office.
Sim -- Vancouver's first Asian-Canadian Mayor -- and Zhou are proposing the new Chinatown office be named after Won Alexander Cumyow (溫金有), the person recognized as the first of Chinese descent to be born in Canada.
Won Alexander Cumyow was also a prominent leader of the Chinese community in Vancouver, Sim and Zhou note, founding the Chinese Empire Reform Association, serving as the President of the Chinese Benevolent Association, serving as a court interpreter for the Vancouver Police Department, and was also an advocate for Chinese-Canadian voting rights, which were restored in 1947.
In 2020, Won Alexander Cumyow was also one of the eight historic figures the Bank of Canada shortlisted as the focus of a re-designed five-dollar bill. A final decision is still pending.
"Naming this new office after Won Alexander Cumyow is as a testament to his dedication to this community and those who call it home," said Mayor Sim in a statement on Thursday. "His life of determined advocacy helped pave the way for countless Canadians of Chinese descent -- including people like myself."