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Old 07-06-2008, 10:19 PM   #1
commuter guy
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A discussion regarding Chinatown

An article in the Boston Globe discussing changing Chinatown and briefly mentioning the Dainty Dot proposal and Archstone apartments:

CHINATOWN
Moving in, moving out
By Victoria Cheng, Globe Correspondent | July 6, 2008

Granite condo buildings loom over graying low-rises festooned with the colorful, haphazardly translated signs of local businesses.

Elderly residents shop at fruit stands while construction vehicles lumber through the streets. On weekends the restaurants brim with diners, ranging from college students eyeing the tripe with trepidation to large families gathering for dim sum.

But the influx of businesses and new residences into Chinatown obscures a simultaneous movement of people out of the neighborhood. After the Zoning Board's approval last week of a proposed 27-story structure on the site of the Dainty Dot Hosiery building on Essex Street, community members say they are looking for ways to put development decisions back in the hands of those most affected.

Residents got some help in June, when the Asian Community Development Corporation received a $125,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to run virtual reality simulations that will create models of planned developments in Chinatown. Boston was one of five sites in the country to receive such a grant, which is intended to help communities address gentrification issues.

The money will pay for technology that integrates data - such as building models, zoning regulations, and population and employment estimates - into three-dimensional renderings on how these factors affect residents.

The organization hopes these models will help residents and businesses envision how developments will affect them, enabling them to benefit from the changes rather than simply suffering the effects.

Karen Chen, a paralegal with Greater Boston Legal Services, worked with a number of families that were priced out of their apartments above the Chau Chow City Restaurant on Essex Street after the Hamilton Co. bought the building in 2003.

"The units used to have families and newer immigrants who paid between $700 and $900 in rent," she said. "After Hamilton bought the building, rent went up to between $1,500 and $2,000." The legal services group and the families were unable to negotiate lower rents, Chen said.

Facing the higher rents, many residents prefer to move out as quickly as possible. One woman Chen contacted about being displaced from the Essex Street housing units expressed reluctance to tell her story publicly. "She felt that it's over, she's in public housing now, even though it's not in Chinatown, and there's nothing she can do about it," Chen said.

Paul Lee was born in Chinatown and lived there until he was 11, but his family moved to Brookline after its home was purchased by New England Medical Center in 1961. He noted that the cultural cohesiveness of a community depends heavily on geography.

"Growing up in Chinatown, not only were your friends there, but their parents knew who you were and watched over you, and it was a very close-knit community," he said. "When we were dispersed, it was harder for us to socialize with other Chinese families and our friends from Chinatown. Gradually, we lost touch with a lot of our friends."

He added that Chinatown has also changed dramatically in the last few decades. "In the old days, you could walk down Hudson Street, and people would be sitting outside on a stoop and the whole time you were walking down, you would run into a lot of friends. Nowadays, you have to make play dates before kids can play with somebody."

Small-business owners, those who give Chinatown its characteristic hole-in-the-wall snack shops and who provide the community with basic services such as accounting and hair styling, also suffer from the effects of gentrification, said Jeremy Liu, executive director of the Asian Community Development Corporation.

The luxury apartment complex Archstone Boston Common, completed in 2006, boasts retail rental rates per square foot similar to other buildings in the neighborhood, he said, but its retail spaces are much larger than the size of a typical Chinatown business space.

"Even if the price is the same per square foot, no one in Chinatown can afford it because they don't want that much space and can't afford the total occupancy cost," Liu said.

Local businesses that have expressed interest have inquired about "bringing in three or four other small businesses and dividing it up between them.

"That's just not going to happen, because that's not the kind of retail Archstone is looking for," Liu said.

James Jennings, a professor of urban policy and planning at Tufts University, notes there is an economic theory that "if we take care of the bigger institutions, there will be 'trickle-down' benefits to everyone.

"This formula has failed in many places across urban society," he added.

"The most effective strategy for the city is to ensure that development responds to the needs of the neighborhoods, including its microenterprises and community-based organizations."

For now, however, a host of large-scale developments is on the way in Chinatown.

The recently approved plans for the red-brick Dainty Dot building include razing the structure and replacing it with a residential tower with a sweeping glass fa?ade.

There are also 10 other projects in the pipeline under the Boston Redevelopment Authority's purview, all in a neighborhood smaller than nearby Boston Common.

As fuel prices rise and close-in neighborhoods become more attractive, Jennings said, "we will probably see such pressures [to develop land] increase."

"I think the fear that a lot of activists have is that Chinatown in Boston will become like Chinatown in D.C.," said Chinese Progressive Association member Amy Leung.

"There's a fear it will become a playground for yuppies, with just Chinese restaurants but no Chinese residents with the culture and the fabric of the community."

source: http://www.boston.com/realestate/new...ng_out?mode=PF
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Old 07-07-2008, 01:45 AM   #2
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

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But the influx of businesses and new residences into Chinatown obscures a simultaneous movement of people out of the neighborhood. After the Zoning Board's approval last week of a proposed 27-story structure on the site of the Dainty Dot Hosiery building on Essex Street, community members say they are looking for ways to put development decisions back in the hands of those most affected.
Is this true? Why didn't I hear about this being approved
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:52 AM   #3
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

The downtown land is very valuable and located within transit hubs which could easily serve hoards of businesses that generate lots of revenue and provide thousands of jobs. Ethnic groups in cities have had to migrate from neighborhood to neighborhood for centuries to adjust for economic changes. Why should one ethnic group get preferential treatment? Because some elites feel the need for an ethnic zoo/Disneyland to look at all the different people and get noodles the place must be frozen in time? Many of the buildings in the area aren't necessarily of historic or architectural merrit. Can't we just rebuild Castle Square and the New York City Streets as Neo-Chinatown (Castle Square was Chinese before it was demolished) now that the BHA is a joke and the Herald is leaving?
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Old 07-07-2008, 01:37 PM   #4
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Chinatown is one of the most vibrant parts of Boston; here I think the fears are justified; it has so much vitality and street life now, but with all the yuppies moving in it might change to quiet Back Bay or Beacon Hill (Boylston street is so quiet, I wouldn't even think I was in a city based on sounds alone and Beacon Hill is a level beyond that). I want the vitality preserved, Archstone Boston Common's design looks Asian style enough for me, but it doesn't have any ground floor retail. With tons of new condos going up and ground floor retail being eliminated, the vitality and amazing street life might just go down to a few streets; already the corner on which Lofts Avana is losing street life fast with the ground floor retail on that corner being eliminated in the Lofts Avana building, and only one corner having retail (the other is a bank, and a parking garage). Of course a benefit is the increasing verticalness, which adds to the urban feeling and like the place is a slice of Asia (but the residents aren't) but I doubt that the high-class residents will want low-class retail in the building. Soon, the street vendors may move out as there's less neighbors there, and Chinatown's reach will shrink some more in yuppification. I don't want just the ethnic coolness and vibrancy, I want the street life but so far it seems Chinatown is the only place in Boston where it is truly provided (DTX is dead now after Filene's, downtown only is alive on sunny weekends with tourists, north end is relatively quiet). This may sound racist, but it seems the Asian population is great for keeping a great street life, vibrancy, and vitality; they don't complain about noise, and allow street vendors and walk on the street and talk loudly, adding to the urban feeling. The Back Bay is exurbia by comparison. If the yuppies move in, ground floor retail must be required for all new development; Chinatown needs it more than other places to preserve its unique urbanity (and of course the class of retail can't be enforced, but I wouldn't want any high-end yuppy shit).
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Old 07-07-2008, 01:55 PM   #5
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

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Originally Posted by Lurker View Post
Many of the buildings in the area aren't necessarily of historic or architectural merrit. Can't we just rebuild Castle Square and the New York City Streets as Neo-Chinatown (Castle Square was Chinese before it was demolished) now that the BHA is a joke and the Herald is leaving?
Get a time machine, you have an exciting career ahead of you in urban planning circa 1960.
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Old 07-07-2008, 02:56 PM   #6
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

The Chinese are pushing Caucasian out of Quincy and Melrose. Where is the uproar, why are we allowing these ethnic enclaves to be destroyed!!!!


Labor shortages are starting to occur all over China. Someday there will be few new immigrants just like there are no new Italian immigrants comming to the North End.
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Old 07-07-2008, 03:02 PM   #7
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

"Abandoning" and 'Being Pushed Out" are two completely different concepts.

A primer:

Those with means abandon.

Those without means are pushed out.
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Old 07-07-2008, 03:19 PM   #8
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

The problem is that we are non-Asian (assuming) and do not live in Chinatown. What we see as a theme park is in reality a community of people. We think of it as a theme park because of the lengths to which the community has gone to preserve itself. I think this is actually some sort of meta-Disneyfication, that is we are so used to neighborhoods being turned into theme parks that when a real ethnic enclave tries to assert itself we assume it is fake.

I think it is a shame that the less fortunate are being kicked around but this is nothing new, in fact what is going on here is exactly what should be going on; that is a neighborhood is evolving and improving itself. If you go down to Chinatown in NYC you will see Catholic churches built by the first waves of Irish, then inhabited by the second wave of Italians, and now used by the Chinese themselves.

Remember, even Beacon Hill was once the red light district (Mt. Whoredom!) Tastes and people move, it sucks but that's life.
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Old 07-07-2008, 07:20 PM   #9
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

I covered my mouth and laughed when I read that!

BTW, I can't think of a better location for the new city hall than on the Herald property. Convenient to major neighborhoods, the highway, the turnpike, the airport, parking a possibility, builds up a under-utilized area, rebuilds a neighborhood (NY Streets) destroyed by misguided urban planning.

No, seriously.
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Old 07-07-2008, 08:23 PM   #10
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Public transit to the neighborhood isn't that great though unless you count the Silver Lie. Now if the F branch to Dudley was built.....
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Old 07-07-2008, 09:11 PM   #11
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurker View Post
The downtown land is very valuable and located within transit hubs which could easily serve hoards of businesses that generate lots of revenue and provide thousands of jobs. Ethnic groups in cities have had to migrate from neighborhood to neighborhood for centuries to adjust for economic changes. Why should one ethnic group get preferential treatment? Because some elites feel the need for an ethnic zoo/Disneyland to look at all the different people and get noodles the place must be frozen in time? Many of the buildings in the area aren't necessarily of historic or architectural merrit. Can't we just rebuild Castle Square and the New York City Streets as Neo-Chinatown (Castle Square was Chinese before it was demolished) now that the BHA is a joke and the Herald is leaving?
It's probably because they will have to move the Paifung Gate if all the Asians relocate to another area.

/semi sarcasm but really if the Asians do move out, the gate would be meaningless.

But it's true and it's not surprising that throughout time, each ethnic start to move. I'm starting to see this more and more. Pretty soon, Asians are going to move out into other neighborhoods and will be traveling to work in Chinatown. Chinatown will soon be nothing more but a place with an abnormally huge concentration of Asian-style restaurants and shop but no Asian residents. I'm already seeing this trend into Charlestown thanks to the large government subsidize housing projects located here. I remember living 10 years ago, Asians were far and few in Charlestown, dominated mainly by the Caucasians(Irish) in the south and a small Hispanic community to the north. However this has changed as I have notice and influx of Asians have begun to live within the CharlesNewTown complex. It's a pretty close-knit community as well as most of us come to know each other after a few months of settling in. It's a natural occurrence in a city though I wish it wasn't.
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Old 07-08-2008, 01:40 PM   #12
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Boston is already starting to resemble cities with older Chinatowns and higher rates of immigration from China and other Asian countries. In Los Angeles, Chinatown is basically a tourist attraction, although it does have some services for the Chinese community, churches, temples, festivals etc. and there is a small abutting residential area that is heavily Chinese and elderly. Most Chinese immigration goes directly into suburban San Gabriel Valley, where some of the towns (San Marino, Alhambra, Monterey Park) are nearly 50% Asian. In these towns it is typical to see a 'Bank of America' sign or nationwide food chains in Mandarin or Cantonese. If non-Chinese people want a 'Chinatown' experience, they increasingly go to these suburbs. The new pattern of immigration, I think, reflects the changing demographics of immigration. Many Chinese coming to the US are very wealthy and become home-buyers right away. Poorer immigrants rent all over LA and in these suburbs.
San Francisco is similar, with most Chinese immigration going into the suburban west side of that city, or suburbs like Fremont in the East Bay. There however Chinatown still seems to have a bit more to it. (unlike LA's chinatown, it was never torn down and moved, and so I think there's more of a sentimental tie to it, and a lot of investment in it from chinese-Americans).
So I think something like this is what will happen in Boston. With more direct immigration into Quincy and other suburbs. Doesn't Lexington attract a lot of wealthy Chinese immigrants? And Chinatown will become a place for some services, festivals, the elderly, and the gate will stay and some other features, and these things will probably be preserved by chinese-american money, just as the restaurants etc. in the north end are preserved by italian-american money even though the north end is a gentrified neighborhood (that is lucky to have more than the typical mix of fusion restaurants, day spas, and coffee joints, and be a regional destination).
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Old 07-08-2008, 02:07 PM   #13
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Boston is mostly white, I don't think any of the suburbs will become too Asian; even Quincy, I thought it would be quite Asian before I went there, but when I went there it just seemed like a normal inner suburb with slightly more Asian stores than usual. I doubt there will be any of the true Asian suburbs here, there's just not enough of them (or us, I can say). Boston isn't a major destination for Asians, California (and the West Coast in general, since its closer) is what more of them dream of, so major destinations are LA and SF, and of course along with New York.
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Old 07-08-2008, 02:19 PM   #14
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

vanshnookenraggen, I agree with your point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vanshnookenraggen View Post
The problem is that we are non-Asian (assuming) and do not live in Chinatown. What we see as a theme park is in reality a community of people. We think of it as a theme park because of the lengths to which the community has gone to preserve itself. I think this is actually some sort of meta-Disneyfication, that is we are so used to neighborhoods being turned into theme parks that when a real ethnic enclave tries to assert itself we assume it is fake.
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Old 07-08-2008, 02:54 PM   #15
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

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And Chinatown will become a place for some services, festivals, the elderly, and the gate will stay and some other features, and these things will probably be preserved by chinese-american money, just as the restaurants etc. in the north end are preserved by italian-american money even though the north end is a gentrified neighborhood (that is lucky to have more than the typical mix of fusion restaurants, day spas, and coffee joints, and be a regional destination).
This is exactly what happened to Littly Italy in NYC, though interestingly it was consumed by Chinatown instead of gentrification, though that is coming soon!

Re: Chinatown Blogger, do you have an actual blog about Chinatown? I would be interested in reading it.
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Old 07-08-2008, 04:38 PM   #16
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Haven't we had this discussion a decade ago regarding the Italians in the North End and the Irish in Southie?

It's racism. Chinese-Americans have absolutely no inherent right to any patch of land anywhere in the city. No ethnic group can "claim" a part of the city - although history shows they often will try.

It is a real problem that the name of the neighborhood is officially "Chinatown", it would be like calling the North End "Italytown". To me, it's "Midtown" and it's due for a make-over.

20 years from now, hopefully, there will be a collection of Chinese shops and restaurants that sell trinkets to the tourists, surrounded by modern buildings, clean streets, maybe some Chinese-inspired street-art, and parks. But it will inhabited by mostly wealthy people who want to walk downtown (when gas is $10/gallon) - just like what the North End has turned into.

I don't miss the "real" Italian North End of 20 years ago, of dirty tenements, smelly streets and mafioso controlling various blocks. I like the new, clean, safe, Disney-restored North End of today - it's better for us as a city, and the Italian flavor and "face" remains.

People don't have any "right" to live anywhere - and saying they do based on ethnicity is racist.

The history of Boston is written every single day. Who ever would have thought that Coolidge Corner in Brookline would be home to 25+ Japanese restaurants? Or that large stretches of Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester would have more Vietnamese signs than English? Or that Hancock Street in Quincy would be dotted with Chinese signs? Or that the Jewish sections of Blue Hill Avenue would be mostly black? The city changes, neighborhoods change, and it's all a good thing.

Calling one neighborhood "Chinatown" does it a disservice because it makes the public believe that somehow people of one type have some kind of right to live there. When I was growing up, Chinatown is where you went for whores and drugs. Now, you go there for Chinese food and specialty shops. Good news for Boston.
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Old 07-08-2008, 05:57 PM   #17
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

Quote:
I don't think any of the suburbs will become too Asian; even Quincy, I thought it would be quite Asian before I went there, but when I went there it just seemed like a normal inner suburb with slightly more Asian stores than usual.
Quincy's school enrollment was 41% non-white last year. The majority being asian. Norht Quincy probably is 60% asian. Thats more than the "usual".

Pelhamhall, what's this racist talk? everyone is racist. Chapelle sumed it up best for me "I found myself being racist... against myself! I don't want no black Santa!"
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Old 07-08-2008, 06:12 PM   #18
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

The issues arn't "Are cities changing?" or "Should cities change?" but rather "How should cities change?" and "Is this type of change good or bad?"

Tough questions to be sure and there is no real right or wrong answer, but they should be addressed in some way or another.
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Old 07-08-2008, 06:36 PM   #19
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

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When I was growing up, Chinatown is where you went for whores and drugs.
I preferred Pine Manor.
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Old 07-08-2008, 06:41 PM   #20
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Re: A discussion regarding Chinatown

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Quincy's school enrollment was 41% non-white last year. The majority being asian. Norht Quincy probably is 60% asian. Thats more than the "usual".

Pelhamhall, what's this racist talk? everyone is racist. Chapelle sumed it up best for me "I found myself being racist... against myself! I don't want no black Santa!"
I was just driving through, it didn't look very asian compared to even a regular part of LA, let alone the Asian parts. The downtown had almost no Chinese signs, there were only 2 Asian supermarkets, I would say its level of Asian-ness is comparable to Malden. Quincy is only about 30% Asian, noticable but not enough to make the community Asian.
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