Closed restaurants, rare customers, absent tourists, racist acts linked to the origins of the epidemic, real estate pressure … Chinatown is going through tough times and Montreal, worried about its future, is preparing to unveil an action plan to restart it.
“Chinatown is important to the development and health of the city center,” Mayor Valerie Blunt said at a forum on Chinatown organized by the Montreal Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
It is important that we protect them, their identity, their culture, their spirit, their workers and their businesses. We will present our business plan in a few weeks, and it contains ideas on the social, cultural and linguistic levels, or how to maintain the dynamic of commercial arteries.
Valerie Blunt, Mayor of Montreal
The forum brought together elected officials from three levels of government, as well as many economic players in this sector of the city, of Chinese origin or not.
Many remembered how the neighborhood was affected by the consequences of COVID-19, especially because businesses were victims of racist acts of vandalism, and because workers are absent from the city center, all like tourists.
“The Chinese community in Montreal has been the victim of events that cannot be tolerated,” said Chantal Rollo, Minister Responsible for the Capital in Quebec. “It is clear that the absence of thousands of workers, students and tourists who frequent the city center has clearly affected the vitality of Chinatown, a neighborhood that has had to deal with the drastic drop in the number of passengers, hurting its financial health.”
In the absence of international tourists, Canadian Heritage Minister Stephen Gilbo hopes that Quebec tourists will want to discover Chinatown.
It is a culinary and cultural experience, so I think that in order to receive people from everywhere, we will encourage people from here to discover it.
Stephen Gilbault, Canadian Heritage Minister
According to Eva Ho, owner of the Le Coq Frit restaurant banner, some restaurants have seen their sales drop 95% since the start of the pandemic.
MI Hu pointed to other issues affecting the neighborhood’s vitality: too many empty buildings, expensive rents and poorly maintained buildings. “The owners of these buildings do not always have the means to maintain them well. They will need encouragement to take better care of their buildings,” suggests the young entrepreneur.
According to Jonathan Cha, an urban scientist and heritage expert from Chinatown, acknowledging the heritage of the sector can aid in its development, while still allowing for the preservation of what is in its interest.