Calgary council approves Chinatown redevelopment

A plan and cultural guideline have been approved for the redevelopment of Calgary’s Chinatown. Taylor Braat explains why this is so important for the community which has struggled in history and in recent years.

A new plan for the redevelopment of Calgary’s Chinatown will not only maintain its cultural roots, but be guided by them.

Tomorrow’s Chinatown program is a 30-year strategy that includes the Chinatown Cultural Plan, which received unanimous approval at City Hall Tuesday.

The program includes three projects: The previously mentioned cultural plan, an area redevelopment plan, and includes the renaming of James Short Park to Harmony Park, which happened last month.

“The story of Calgary’s Chinese community is one that reflects strength and perseverance through challenging times of discrimination and hardship,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek in a statement. “Over the years, Chinatown has contributed so much toward making downtown Calgary a thriving destination, and these plans reflect what we can accomplish together in creating tomorrow’s Chinatown.”

Fazeel Elahi, local area planning coordinator at The City of Calgary, is leading Tomorrow’s Chinatown project.

“The last doc was from 1986 [was] quite dated, so it left a lot of guesswork for area developers, like, ‘What could work here? What kind of design parameters could work?’ We’ve provided a lot of direction,” Elahi said.

“It’s a significant approval step.”

Highlights include prioritizing residential mixed-use development, a new climate risk plan, green areas, and all through the lens of preserving Chinese culture and heritage.

Calgary’s Chinatown has seen struggles in recent years that include neglected areas and a lack of street parking. When news broke of COVID-19 in China, businesses suffered.

A lot of people were afraid to come to Chinatown because of the stigma around the coronavirus. There was a lot of racism and targeted acts toward the residents in the neighbourhood, so the community is recovering from that.


Alice Lam is a long-time advocate for the community and says while Chinatown has been in Calgary since 1885, the community struggled to find a permanent home. This is its third location.

“Because of development threats — because of racism, one of the first Chinatowns burnt down because of racism,” Lam said.

“I’m really excited about it because it means that we can be sustainable.”

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The project’s vision is for Chinatown to be a cultural enclave with cultural experiences, facilities, and amenities and to be a tourist hub and an economic force.

“Being one the last remaining Chinatowns in North America, we hope to set the standard and be a best practice for other cities,” Lam said.

The area development plan will now head to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board for approval before it heads to council in the spring for finalization.

More information about the development can be found here.

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