NPA Park Board Commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung calls for revitalization of public square in historical Chinatown
Park Board to consider motion June 18 to address unwelcoming, challenged courtyard in legacy neighbourhood
June 18, 2018, Vancouver, B.C. – A motion brought forward by NPA Park Board Commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung, calling for the Park Board to ask the City of Vancouver to explore a redesign of the courtyard connecting the Chinese Cultural Centre and famed Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, goes to the Board June 18.
Kirby-Yung is asking the City of Vancouver to build on its commitment to Vancouver’s Chinatown by conducting a feasibility study on how the unwelcoming, dark and challenged courtyard in this historic neighbourhood can be revitalized to create a legacy for generations to come.
“As the liaison Commissioner to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, I’ve heard from them, community members, and groups, that a long-term solution is needed to improve the design of this important courtyard,” said Kirby-Yung. “We can’t let this special public space continue to deteriorate. With the City pursuing a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Chinatown this is the perfect time to address this and support the City’s goal of creating a Chinatown Living Heritage and Cultural Assets Management Plan.”
As Kirby-Yung notes in her motion, the courtyard is home to, and serves as, the main entrance to the Chinese Cultural Centre, Chinese Canadian Military Museum, and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and serves as a connector to Sun Yat-Sen Park, Pender, and Carrall Streets. Both the Garden and Museum have lent their support to the motion.
The courtyard is plagued with challenges including ongoing vandalism resulting in boarding up of the Chinese Cultural Centre entrances, under usage by the public, and fire risks from unauthorized fires and related activity.
Kirby-Yung notes that the courtyard has the potential to be a vibrant, engaging, public square that provides access to some of the neighbourhood’s most important cultural institutions. The motion comes as the City is set to announce new names for two public plazas: the Vancouver Art Gallery north plaza and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza.
The text of Kirby-Yung’s motion is appended below.
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Notice of Motion: Creating a Public Square Legacy in Chinatown
MOVER: Commissioner Kirby-Yung
1. The courtyard between Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Pender Streets is accessible from both Pender Streets and Carrall Streets as well as through the adjacent public garden.
2. This courtyard which is also home to the Chinese Cultural Centre, including the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, has the potential to be a gem that is an anchor for the rich history of this neighbourhood. It serves as the main entrance and access points to both institutions.
3. Unfortunately, the courtyard is plagued with challenges stemming from serious social issues including ongoing sustained vandalism resulting in boarding up the Chinese Cultural Centre entrance, under usage by the public, and fire risks from unauthorized fires and related activity.
4. In an area with such a rich heritage and architecture, the risk of fire cannot be ignored.
5. Various individual solutions have been proposed over time ranging from consideration of the installation of gates to provide security benefits to lighting. For example, a lighting study was completed for Cultural Services at the City of Vancouver by historian John Atkin. However, despite some funding allocation to the Chinese Cultural Centre, this did not result in a successful implementation of lighting. Similarly, installation of gates was proposed in the past by the local Vancouver Police Community Policing Centre and has recently been under consideration by Vancouver Park Board staff. These might present some security benefits but they could also result in the creation of additional security hazards to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden as well as other related issues.
6. Vancouver-based renowned architect James K.M. Cheng was commissioned for the Chinese Cultural Centre in 1978. The original exterior design in today’s environment poses challenges as, in conjunction with the courtyard design, it creates dead zones and impedes visual sightlines.
7. The City of Vancouver has been placing priority on revitalization of public squares, such as the recent renovation of the Vancouver Art Gallery main plaza recognizing the role they can play in providing community hubs and serving as activity and gathering spaces.
8. In addition to broad design strategies and security considerations, animation of this space as a true public square would provide a meaningful legacy for the community.
9. There are a number of existing community organizations that Park Board and the City could partner with to activate the space ranging from and not limited to the Chinatown Night Market to the Hua Foundation and Vancouver Farmers Markets (to address food rising food security issues in the neighbourhood) and create a social hub.
10. At the November 1, 2017 Standing Committee of Council on Policy and Strategic Priorities, City Council unanimously approved the Report titled: “Historical Discrimination Against Chinese People in Vancouver” including the following key actions:
i. Initiating a process towards a UNESCO designation of World Heritage Site for Chinatown Adoption of the “Preliminary Research on Historical Discrimination Against Chinese People in Vancouver” report that provides context and background for the initiative;
ii. Creating a Chinatown Living Heritage & Cultural Assets Management Plan to support the UNESCO process;
11. A Conservation & Upgrade Assessment for the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden report is being led by Real Estate & Facilities Management for the long-term needs of the Garden with completion expected in Summer 2018.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
A. THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation ask the City of Vancouver to explore the opportunity to work on a redesign of the courtyard between Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Pender Streets with the goal of creating a true Public Square in this historically rich and priceless neighbourhood and support the UNESCO work with the engagement of key stakeholders.
B. THAT Such a project be broad-based including exterior architecture review, potential for light and/or art installations and other design strategies that would open the plaza more fully to the public and encourage broader usage.
C. THAT consideration be given to involvement of the original Chinese Cultural Centre architect and opportunities for his support of such a project.
D. THAT the Vancouver Park Board recommend an initial step of a high-level feasibility review with a report back to the City and Park Board on early findings.
E. THAT the Vancouver Park Board explore opportunities in partnership with the City of Vancouver, Sun Yat-Sen Garden, Chinese Cultural Centre, and local community organizations and stakeholders to identify programming opportunities that would create vitality and animate this important location in this historic neighbourhood.