Mayor Robertson joined dozens of Chinatown business and community leaders at the Chinese Cultural Center on Wednesday, to kick off the City's Lunar New Year celebrations and highlight the successful revitalization efforts the City has undertaken.
"We are less than three weeks away from the start of the Winter Olympics. Chinatown, and all of Vancouver, will be exposed to the world like never before," said the Mayor. "It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am very excited about the world media coming to see Chinatown."
Mayor Robertson encouraged everyone to come out to this year's Lunar New Year parade, which will wind through the streets of Chinatown on Sunday, February 14th, during the first weekend of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"Less than 48 hours after the opening ceremonies, when the world’s eyes will be on Vancouver, the Lunar New Parade will be taking place right here in Chinatown. On behalf of the City of Vancouver, I invite everyone to join us at the Parade on Feb 14, starting at 9.30 am.
"The event this year will offer visitors and residents a unique and memorable experience. The parade will be followed by some of the best cultural performances in town. And it’s all happening at the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Garden courtyard as well as our LiveCity Downtown site across from the Chinatown SkyTrain Station."
Mayor Robertson also outlined the various programs the City has udnertaken in recent years, to improve the business climate in Chinatown and to the look and feel of the neighbourhood.
"City staff have been working closely with the community and business organizations in Chinatown to address their needs and develop important programs aimed at bringing economic prosperity and healthy development to this historic part of our city. Look around you. Everywhere you look, you can see the encouraging results of the projects that we’ve developed for the revitalization of Chinatown.
"35 businesses have already taken advantage of our Downtown Eastside Awning Improvement Program that helps upgrade store awnings and creates a more positive retail environment in the neighbourhood.
"We’ve approved $350,000 for the Active Storefront Program to bring a new look to six vacant storefronts and to help recruit new businesses.
"The results are clear: Earlier this month, a new restaurant opened its doors on Keefer Street and is already doing brisk business.
"Last year, we extended the City’s Heritage Façade Rehabilitation Program for three more years. This commitment reflects the success of this program and the interest from property owners to renovate their building facades.
"As we speak, the interior and exterior of the Chinatown Plaza are getting a complete facelift, including a new floor, a children’s play area, signage, lighting, and a stage and chairs for special events.
"In a couple of weeks, visitors to Chinatown will be greeted by a prominent, five-storey-high neon sign that will light up the corner of Keefer and Columbia Street. This is the result of the city’s support and the community’s interest and hard work to bring neon signs back to the neighbourhood.
"To help attract more visitors and customers to the area, we’ve engaged design students from Langara College to create window displays for a number of stores on East Pender as a part of the 2nd Chinatown Window Display Contest. I am really excited to see young people getting involved in projects like this and I hope more will come down and experience our unique Chinatown.
"These are just a few examples of what the City of Vancouver is doing in partnership with our Chinatown organizations. We’re working together to bring economic prosperity back to Chinatown, and I believe we are already seeing the benefits."