Philadelphia's Chinatown Stays Resilient Against Displacement

With the construction of a new community center and housing, Philadelphia's Chinatown sees a more secure future for the historic neighborhood
November 28, 2016, 6am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Scott McLeod

While economic forces have decimated some neighborhoods, forcing displacement of existing residents, Philadelphia's Chinatown has so far resisted significant changes. The neighborhood is getting additional stability thanks to the construction of the Eastern Tower, a new apartment complex that includes a community center - the first for the neighborhood.

Jared Brey of Philadelphia Magazine reports that the funding for the Eastern Tower comes from the same program that is helping to build the elevated park soon to take over the Reading Viaduct which runs adjacent to the neighborhood. The Eastern Tower has the potential to blunt some of the potential gentrification pressures created by the new elevated park; anchoring the neighborhood.

The streets and sidewalks are currently the only community spaces in Chinatown. The Eastern Tower will give residents their first recreation center, with space for the Philadelphia Suns, a youth basketball and lion-dancing group. Yeung hopes it gets people to cross the expressway more often, and goes a small way toward mending that open wound.

But the project is more than just housing and community space. It’s not hard to imagine the neighborhood north of the expressway taking on a new name in a few years — Viaductland, maybe, or Rail Park Place. As much as any neighborhood in Philly, Chinatown has had to fight for its right to exist. Refusing to allow the expressway to be its permanent boundary is a credit to its perseverance.

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Published on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 in PhillyMag
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