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Three massive Chinatown parkades, built in the 1990's to "revitalize" the historic neighbourhood by attracting more shoppers, have been mostly empty for years. Worse, building the parkades meant demolition of more than a hundred units of low-income housing and dozens of small Chinatown shops.
On a wall of the Chinatown Plaza Parkade, 180 Keefer, a plaque dedicates the 1000 parking spaces to "the Continuing Vitality of Chinatown." Revitalization was the slogan used by Civic and Chinatown leaders to sell their promise that this massive parkade and others would bring shoppers and prosperity. But, like the Sun Wah (325 spaces) and Golden Crown (163 spaces) built in the same decade, the Chinatown Plaza Parkade sits empty most of the time.
Although the many restaurants and open-sided food stores along Gore and the intersecting streets are filled every day with shoppers, those shoppers apparently don't use the parkades.
The parkades had arisen from discussions among Civic and Chinatown leaders, not necessarily including shopkeepers or low-income residents. Years later the leaders admitted failure of their parkades and initiated campaigns like the Silk Road initiative, the Millennium Gate construction, Memorial Square creation, historic murals, and the Chinatown Panda Mascot campaign. The city of Vancouver helped out over the years by providing Chinatown's own unique signage, lighting, and street furniture. Chinatown leaders still said none of that has worked: Chinatown needs still "more shoppers." Although perhaps they mean "tourists."
An Ideal Solution
Now, having failed to increase Chinatown shopping with parkades, Civic and Chinatown leaders are favouring the ideal solution they probably preferred all along. Presenting the same arguments they used 20 years ago in support of the parkades, they are touting a solution that cannot fail to be a financial success: residential condo towers.
They are guaranteed financial success because construction of condo towers, even if they don't "save Chinatown," will surely make plenty of money for developers, realtors, architects, contractors, lawyers, and land owners.