Closing the barn door after Chinatown has fled

Photo courtesy of
‘Chinatown Arch #2’
courtesy of ‘Frank Hale’

While you were all waiting for the marriage equality vote, the council was giving final approval to an Office of Planning project to address the “growing concerns of area residents and business owners that Chinatown is threatened by the continual loss of Chinese businesses and residents as well as cultural and historical features.”

I’d have loved to have seen Chinatown’s character preserved, but didn’t that ship sail over a decade ago? The area I’ve been calling “Chinatown in name only” for a lot of years is already pretty well diminished. The Office of Planning’s Chinatown Cultural Development Strategy summarizes it pretty well: “Today, only 30 Chinese owned businesses and less than 300 Chinese residents remain in Chinatown.”

In fairness to the Verizon center and other business growth there, the number of residents took a nose-dive from 3,000 to about 900 in the 70s and never recovered. But the business presence and appearance of Chinatown is vastly different from the first time I saw it in the late 80s. What’s really left at this point for this project to preserve?|

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


3 thoughts on “Closing the barn door after Chinatown has fled

  1. My great-aunt still lives in “Chinatown”. It’s certainly changed since I was a kid.

  2. Ha, I checked out some of the Chinatown Cultural Development Strategy working group’s ideas during one of their meetings at the MLK Library. It was embarrassingly bad. They proposed building an APA Heritage museum and putting in some retail space for some random little stores, which they illustrated with Hello Kitty rings. The group clearly has no idea what Chinese residents are looking for. It’s not like there aren’t any Chinese residents in the DMV – it’s just that they all moved out to Rockville where rent is cheap and where it’s possible to buy decent Chinese groceries. As a real, live Chinese person, I would LOVE it if they created some incentives for existing successful restaurants and businesses to branch into Chinatown.

  3. Chinatown? I just call it Chinablock.
    There’s also the sad truth that among the gems, several of those few remaining Chinese-owned businesses should be closed down for health concerns.