Chinatown development policies’ changes aim to improve fit of new buildings, maintain neighbourhood character

CHANGES are being proposed to development policies in Chinatown to help new development fit better with the historic and cultural character of the neighbourhood.

A staff report was presented to Council on Tuesday on upcoming Chinatown initiatives and proposed changes to development policies and zoning. The proposed development and zoning changes will be considered at a public hearing to be scheduled by Council.

Vancouver’s Chinatown is designated a National Historic Site of Canada, which recognizes it as a place of profound importance that reflects the rich heritage, diversity and history of our nation. The policy and zoning changes respond directly to issues over the form and pace of new development in Chinatown that the community has raised since the development policies were adopted in 2011.

Development policies and strategies would be revised through the following recommendations:

  • Tall and wide buildings will no longer be considered. The majority of concerns expressed by the community were related to buildings that, through the Rezoning Policy for Chinatown South (an area bound by Quebec, Pender, Gore and Union Street), were permitted to exceed 90 feet in height and be built on wide consolidated lots.
  • Buildings could be considered under the base zoning height of up to 75 feet on Pender Street and up to 90 feet in Chinatown South. The changes would also limit the maximum density and number of storeys.
  • New buildings would be smaller and built on narrow lots with smaller store fronts to better fit with Chinatown’s traditional character. Placing limits on the maximum size for site frontages would also help limit assembly of sites for development and land speculation.

In addition to these recommendations, the City is forming a dedicated Chinatown Transformation Team to work with the community on a number of key actions, including:

  • Preparation of a long-term plan to conserve Chinatown’s living culture and heritage
  • Supporting economic development towards a vibrant Chinatown
  • Dialogues and programming on anti-racism
  • Redesign of Memorial Square
  • Exploring the feasibility of a UNESCO world heritage site application
  • Advancing the Legacy Business Study to support traditional businesses
  • Rehabilitation of the heritage Chinese Societies buildings, and
  • Maximizing opportunities for seniors housing and amenities in and around Chinatown.

The City has been working with the Chinatown community to support revitalization in this important historic and cultural neighbourhood. The engagement process for these proposed changes began three years ago, and since then many potential policy options were explored to try and best meet the needs of this unique cultural heritage neighbourhood. City staff received significant input from members of the community and key stakeholders through a wide range of engagement opportunities, including open houses, public meetings, information sessions, stakeholder meetings, pop-up events, and surveys. The proposed policy changes were drafted by weighing the many different voices we heard with the technical, economic, cultural, and social analysis and City priorities.

These recommendations and upcoming initiatives will further help achieve a vibrant and prosperous Chinatown, and better manage future development to protect and enhance this important part of Vancouver, says the City.

For more details, see the Council report.

For more information on the City’s work in Chinatown: .