A Lantern to Light the Way in Chinatown

Chinatown - Chicago, Illinois - February, 2010 - 005a copy

There’s been a lot of change in Chinatown over the last few years.  A renovated park, a new field house, and a new library are among the civic improvements complimenting a surge in the number of people living and working in the once sketchy neighborhood.  Now the way forward has a guidebook: The Chinatown Community Vision Plan.

We first told you about the plan about eight months ago, and it has been the subject of numerous studies, surveys, and community meetings.  Now the final plan is ready to become the real thing, helping shape this near-south community for the next decade and beyond.

Among the highlights:

  • Crime is the number one problem people in Chinatown are worried about (followed by filth and transportation).  The plan calls for improving communication between the residents and police while improving lighting, events, etc… to encourage people to come out at night and take back their streets.
  • Make the CTA Red Line station less scary and gross
  • Add more bus shelters
  • More directional signs
  • Improve sidewalks and crosswalks.  This goes hand-in-hand with the objective of making Chinatown more elderly-friendly.  The percentage of elderly people living in Chinatown is double that of the rest of the city.
  • More bicycle lanes and racks
  • Improve social and economic links between Old Chinatown and New Chinatown.  If you don’t live in the area you may not know that Archer Avenue is something of a cultural divide between the young, hip, trendy Chinese and their suburban relatives (north side of Archer) and the long-time residents and new arrivals (south side of Archer).
  • Build the Wells/Wentworth connector, linking Chinatown to The Loop
  • More affordable housing
  • Improve the housing stock
  • 66% of Chinatown buildings are commercial (compared with 24% in the rest of the South Side), but people would like more convenience stores, clothing stores, and supermarkets
  • More marketing of Chinatown as a destination
  • More events, large and small
  • City should work harder to make its services available to those who can only speak Chinese
  • More parks, please
  • Better parks, please
  • Safer parks, please
  • More civic events (like community clean-ups)

You can download the plan as a PDF here.  It’s quite large (110 pages), but the photography is really nice.  You can read the full press release from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning here:


Chinatown Community Vision Plan charts course for the future

Chinatown residents, business owners, community organizations, and leaders meet to approve first comprehensive plan for historic neighborhood.

Government, business, and civic leaders will meet to approve the Chinatown Community Vision Plan, which builds on Chinatown’s celebration of its centennial in 2012 to provide a framework that aligns future decision making with the community’s long-term goals.

The plan signing ceremony will be at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 28, at the Chinese American Service League (2141 S. Tan Ct., Chicago).

The Chinatown Community Vision Plan is the result of two years of work led by the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), 25th Ward Alderman Daniel Solis, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), in consultation with the City of Chicago. The planning process was guided by input from more than 1,800 of Chinatown’s residents, business owners, workers, and community leaders.

Based on a thorough examination of existing conditions and community opinion, the plan identifies community priorities for the future and provides strategies for implementation in areas such as safety, transportation and circulation, residential community, economic development, education and workforce, parks and public spaces, future development, and long-term capacity building. One of its key strategies is to increase transportation accessibility by improving streets and sidewalks and strengthening connections between “Old Chinatown” and “New Chinatown.”

“I am pleased to join today’s approval of the Chinatown Community Vision Plan,” said Alderman Solis, Honorary Chair of the plan’s Steering Committee. “With the work of community organizations and residents, Chinatown is a thriving and vibrant community that will only continue to become one of the greatest places in our city. I am proud that we have come together and defined a new vision for this outstanding neighborhood through the process and plan.”

Changes are underway as Chinatown enters its second century. The state-of-the-art Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library is currently under construction in the center of the community, also home to its new Fieldhouse at Ping Tom Memorial Park. Both are located along Wentworth Avenue, scheduled to be realigned and improved as part of the City’s planned Wells-Wentworth Connector that will create a new major corridor between Chinatown and the Loop and set the stage for major new development throughout the area. These enhancements are taking place as the Chinese population in Chicago’s Chinatown continues to grow, while the percentage of Chinese residents has been declining in many other Chinatowns across the U.S.

“The Chinatown Community Vision Plan will be the most important document to guide the future development of the community,” said CBCAC chairman C.W. Chan. “It will lead to a more sustainable and livable Chinatown, further strengthening its position as an integral and vital part of this great city. The development of the plan has been a productive and gratifying experience for Chinatown, and can be a template for other Asian-American neighborhoods in the region.”

The plan’s development was supported through the CMAP Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program, which is funded by the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Chicago Community Trust.

“The Chinatown Community Vision Plan builds upon the impressive legacy of Chinatown’s past accomplishments and its current assets, strengthening the community’s capacity for growth and stability in the coming decades,” said Stephen Ostrander, CMAP senior planner and project manager. “In addition, by planning for the future, the Chinatown community is helping to make the region a better place to live, work, and visit.”

With the approval of the Chinatown Community Vision Plan, the Steering Committee will next move forward with its implementation, working with Chinatown’s Alderman Solis and 11th Ward Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson, community partners, and the City of Chicago, along with assistance from CMAP.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

Share This Post On