view of Chinatown street

City Council approves cultural district framework to support Chinatown revitalization

June 12 2024 –

Today, City Council took the next step in the City’s ongoing efforts to revitalize economic and community development in Chinatown, with the approval of the Chinatown Cultural District Framework (9.0 MB)

The framework establishes Chinatown as a cultural district and provides a single comprehensive approach to guide the City’s work in renewing the vibrancy of the historic neighbourhood. Building upon previous Council-approved plans, including the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan (196 KB), the framework addresses Chinatown’s most urgent needs and responds to priorities identified by community partners. 

“Chinatown holds a special place in the hearts of many across Vancouver, which is why revitalizing this historic neighbourhood has been a top priority for our team,” says Mayor Ken Sim. “This new framework is community focused, building on previous neighbourhood plans and offering a clear, actionable path forward. It aims to leverage Chinatown’s rich cultural heritage, explore land and building use options, and support local economic development. I can’t wait to experience firsthand the positive impact this next step will bring to the Chinatown community.”

The framework identifies five key goals, which focus on managing development and change, stewarding cultural heritage, supporting culturally significant businesses and the local economy, and exploring opportunities for housing, services and amenities in the neighbourhood.

Goal 1: Explore and update planning tools to support a cultural district approach.  

This includes assessing how City policies and tools relating to land use, zoning, planning, heritage, permitting and licensing can be utilized or updated to support a distinct and heritage-rich cultural district neighbourhood.

Goal 2: Improve the overall environment in Chinatown.  

This goal centres public safety, public infrastructure maintenance and the continuation of pilot projects started through the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan, including enhanced cleaning and sanitation, graffiti abatement strategies and community supports. It strives to ensure the neighbourhood is a clean, well-maintained and safe public space for community members and visitors.
Goal 3: Support Chinatown’s cultural heritage assets and businesses.

This work will involve leveraging Chinatown’s unique cultural heritage and character through its physical assets, activities and culturally significant businesses. Examples include supports for small businesses, non-profit organizations and cultural institutions, grant programs, and heritage building upkeep and stewardship.

Goal 4: Optimize use of City properties to co-deliver housing, services and amenities.  

This involves exploring ways to maximise the potential of City-owned properties and land in Chinatown to better meet the needs of the neighbourhood, focusing primarily on housing and culturally appropriate amenities and services.

Goal 5: Work together to support Chinatown vibrancy.

Collaboration with community members and partners, local businesses, cross-departmentally within the City, and with senior levels of government, will be key to the framework’s implementation.

To support the Framework’s implementation, Council also approved the creation of a Chinatown Advisory Committee, to provide community perspectives on city-wide priorities, policy, and work programs that impact on the neighbourhood.

Staff will report back to Council later in the year with an implementation plan for this work.

Revitalizing Chinatown: Progress to date

In January 2023, City Council approved the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan, designed to provide Chinatown with enhanced cleaning and sanitation services, graffiti removal, beautification, and additional community supports. Over the last 18 months, progress made on the plan has included: 

  • Providing enhanced daytime street cleaning and additional micro-cleaning. 
  • Administering grants to support increased graffiti removal on private property and the Chinatown BIA’s Safewalk program. 
  • Installing 15 additional larger-capacity public waste bins throughout the neighbourhood. 
  • Launching monthly volunteer and organization-led litter cleanup events through the City’s Neighbourhood Cleanup Party program. 
  • Implementing $2 an hour flat rate street parking at all metered spots in the neighbourhood, which has seen a slight increase in transactions and average length of stay. 

Other work includes:

  • In 2023 (460 KB) and 2024 (385 KB), City Council approved cultural grants of more than $1.6 million to support Chinatown's cultural vibrancy. In October 2023, Council also approved Chinese Society Legacy Program grants (494 KB) totalling $685,113 for capital upgrades to Chinese Society buildings on the heritage register. 
  • The City continues to support the long-term viability, and economic opportunities for culturally significant businesses, social enterprises, and non-profit organizations in Chinatown and the DTES, through its Special Enterprise Program (SEP) pilot. In collaboration with community partners, this program provides support ranging from physical space renovations to business supports including mentoring, succession planning and marketing. 
  • Enhanced the presence of culturally significant physical assets in the neighbourhood, including refreshing the Millennium Gate and installing new neon dragon street banner signs.

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