Big Trouble In Toronto's Chinatown?
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Big Trouble In Toronto’s Chinatown?

Torontoist thinks that Toronto Star writer Andrew Chung was having a bad day when he wrote his lament on the death of Toronto’s Chinatown (the one on Spadina) in Sunday’s Star.
Mr. Weisblott pointed out that the discussion over on the Urban Toronto forum has been brisk and we can understand why. Chung’s doom and gloom don’t actually reflect what it’s like on Spadina.

Once a prosperous hive of activity, Toronto’s downtown Chinatown, centred on Dundas St. W. and Spadina Ave, is now dismal and bleak. Most of the good restaurants have gone. Businesses are suffering. Only a few fruit stands remain. Litter swirls around the cold and lonely sidewalks.

We can’t disagree with the litter but has Chung seen what the street looks like on the weekends? Or any relatively nice day? If that’s a dismal and bleak part of town we’ll take it! While we can understand that suburban development has undoubtedly hurt Chinatown the neighbourhood seems healthy to our eyes. There aren’t too many empty storefronts, restaurants are relatively full and people still shop and buy groceries there. Chinatown no longer has the monopoly on Toronto’s huge Asian immigrant community but that was inevitable considering how large that community has grown. The plight of Chinatown Centre, which Chung, paints as a symptom of the area’s decline is just one side of it.
What makes Spadina and Chinatown important is its pedestrian and street life. A healthy and vibrant Spadina is key to keeping Queen Street and Kensington Market healthy neighbourhoods and on this front Torontoist doesn’t think Spadina is doing a particularly bad job. We’ve mentioned the busy weekends and there are plenty of other things we can sing about. Projects like Murmur are bringing the street’s stories to the forefront. Even neighbours like the 401 Richmond building and the AGO are going to ensure that this area stays healthy.
The first time Torontoist spied Spadina he was ecstatic, finally a Chinatown that works, that people still use. Then he noticed that the area was more than just a Chinatown. He noticed the East Indian families on an outing, and the suburban kids wandering into Kensington market, the tourists shopping for knockoff goods and hipsters from Queen Street looking for cheap eats. Chinatown, far from being an ethnic enclave, or a ghetto, is a crossroads and it’s certainly far from dying or declining.
Photo borrowed from here.