Creating a vision for Chinatown’s future

By Kye Liang and William Moy

Proposed changes on Harrison Street looking south. (Image courtesy of Randall Imai, Chinatown Master Plan 2010.)

In 2008, the community embarked on a plan to create a vision for the future of Chinatown, and to identify opportunities for future growth. Since the adoption of the 1990 Chinatown Community Plan and complementary zoning, Chinatown has experienced significant changes: the decline of the Combat Zone was replaced by new high-rise housing developments; the movement of the garment industry out of Chinatown; increased civic participation; and the rapid growth of the Asian population in Boston’s suburbs.

With a two-year planning process, the community elected a master plan committee consisting of an oversight committee with 13 members, and a technical committee that was charged to establish guidelines for the plan. The oversight committee was elected from major Chinatown agencies, organizations and residents, and had total responsibility for the master plan and its finances. With guidelines prepared by the technical committee, the oversight committee held five public meetings to further refine and create a collective vision for the future. The shared community vision is:

1. Chinatown will be a diverse residential neighborhood anchored by immigrant and working-class families;
2. Chinatown will be a sustainable social, economic and cultural hub for a network of Asian American communities in neighboring communities;
3. Chinatown will enhance its history and character as a unique neighborhood and cultural center that is important to the city, state and region; and
4. Chinatown will develop and diversify its economy by building on both its cultural identity and strategic location.

Proposed changes around the China Trade Center. (Image courtesy of Randall Imai, Chinatown Master Plan 2010.)

The goals of the plan are:
1. Preserve and strengthen Chinatown as a gateway for new immigrants and as a regional center for Chinese and Asian American culture and services;
2. Ensure the preservation of existing affordable housing;
3. Expand the number and range of housing options with a priority on low- and middle-income family housing;
4. Identify, create and prepare community members and businesses for economic development opportunities which will serve the needs of local residents, the regional Asian American community, neighboring institutions and the Downtown and Theater Districts;
5. Increase public safety, improve the pedestrian environment and engage in transportation planning to address community needs;
6. Foster a more sustainable and greener community;
7. Cultivate a healthier and cleaner environment and promote the health and well-being of its residents;
8. Expand civic spaces and increase the number of open spaces and parks;
9. Develop policies that improve the quality of life for community members;
10. Increase community civic participation;
11. Reaffirm Chinatown’s connections with its neighbors.

The Chinatown Master Plan 2010 concluded that Chinatown’s core is fully developed. Future growth will occur at the borders between Chinatown and adjacent neighborhoods, such as the “New York Streets” area with the South End and the South Bay/Chinatown Gateway area with the Leather District. City, state and community-owned land parcels were identified as potential growth areas for future growth: Parcel A, Parcel R-1, Parcel 12, Parcel 25, Parcel 26 and 50 Herald Street.

The “Chinatown Master Plan 2010: Community Vision for the Future” was published in 2010 in both English and Chinese. The “Chinatown Master Plan 2010” volunteers worked many tireless hours to create the vision. The Boston Redevelopment Authority observed and participated in many of the meetings. Many diverse groups were involved with the process, and the “Chinatown Master Plan 2010: Community Vision for the Future” was adopted by the community, and supported by the City of Boston and the BRA. An electronic copy of the document in English is available at:

Look out for our next article, providing an overview of Chinatown developments and progress.

Proposed changes around Chinatown. (Image courtesy of Randall Imai, Chinatown Master Plan 2010.)

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This post is also available in: Chinese

About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England 舢舨報紙總編輯。舢舨是全紐英倫唯一的中英雙語雙週報。
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One Comment

  1. There are a lot of people living in a small town. That’s very common in China. But now more and more people move to big cities. And the ancient towns are disappearing.

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