NEWS

'Food street' envisioned for Vancouver's Chinatown

12/22/2011 09:19 EST | Updated 02/21/2012 05:12 EST

A plan is afoot in Vancouver’s Chinatown to make one block of Keefer Street a traffic-free pedestrian zone filled with restaurants and food stalls.

One of the biggest proponents of the idea is Tony Lam, of the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association.

"Lots of tourists talked to me, ‘Where's the go-to restaurant?’ ‘Where's the good restaurant in Chinatown,’’ said Lam. “We still have quite a few, but it's not enough."

Lam wants to close the 100-block of Keefer to traffic and pack it with a variety of eating spots.

The idea of a food street has already been tried successfully in Richmond’s Alexandra Road, where hungry visitors can get all sorts of Asian and fusion cuisine.

It's done wonders for the area, according to Tracy Lakeman, of Tourism Richmond.

"We have discovered that one of the best things about Richmond for a visitor is to come and experience the Asian culture," Lakeman said.

The concept could work well alongside plans to revitalize Chinatown, with highrises proposed for two corners at Main and Keefer.

Business and cultural groups like the food-street idea, but a longtime activist says it could spell disaster if new restaurants were to squeeze out those who live in some 200 low-income housing units nearby.

"We need to make sure that no one loses their housing, no one loses their food security at the cost of development for people who have a lot of money," said Ivan Drury, of the Carnegie Community Action Project.

But it appears no one would be imminently threatened by the plan.

Backers say it will take five to 10 years before the food-street project is implemented.

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