And there’s a new development that residents fear could make matters worse: plans to build a new Philadelphia 76ers basketball arena nearby.
“It feels very insulting to the community not to be consulted before making a big public announcement,” said Lin, whose restaurant, Bubble Fish, is a few blocks from the proposed site. “Every few years someone wants to dump a huge project like that on our community that threatens our very existence. We’re pretty tired of it.»
Molly McEndy, the 76ers’ director of communications, did not address the reaction directly, but said in a statement that the team plans to invest more than $50 million in communities of color in Philadelphia.
“Through our community engagement process, we have spent many months listening and learning about the complex challenges that Chinatown and other surrounding communities have faced,” he said. “Through our investment, which marks the largest community benefit deal in Philadelphia history, we will ensure that 76 Place preserves and enhances such an important and historic part of our city.”
Asian residents worry that what follows the construction of the stadium will not be good for them. Traffic and congestion in the area, along with new bars and restaurants, would drive up prices and make it difficult for them to pay rent.
For decades, members of the Chinatown community across the country have fought encroaching gentrification, which usually begins with proposals to develop their historic enclaves.
In Seattle, similar projects have driven Asian residents from their homes in Chinatown’s international district, as hotel chains, skyscrapers and transit hubs threaten to move. The National Trust calls on Sound Transit, the city’s local public transport, for expansion plans that could bring new stations to the north and south of the neighbourhood.
Sound Transit public information officer Rachelle Cunningham said community feedback has been an integral part of the expansion plans and the decision made on the new stations is not yet final.
“Over the course of five public meetings, three online surveys, engagement with community organizations, residents, and businesses, community members provided ideas for station locations and improvements, identified opportunities and issues, considered trade-offs, and provided feedback” , said.
But even as Chinatown neighborhoods shrink in size and are threatened by gentrification across the country, they remain a haven for ethnic minorities, Lin said.
“There was a lot of racism. There was a lot of violence,” she said. “But we know that Chinatown is a home, a safe place. We can be who we are. I can be who I am. I can speak the language. I can see myself as I look and be fine.»