Chinatown Community Cultural Hub Report #2 – What We’ve Heard and How We’ve Responded


There is one question at the heart of BC Artscape’s work: How can our spaces serve artists, cultural organizations, and community? Understanding local context is central to this objective. We use different tools and processes with stakeholders to build a project vision that reflects the complexity and history of each place our projects are located. These tools include, but are not limited to: workshops, open houses, focus groups, one-on-one interviews and surveys.

The following is an overview of what we’ve heard thus far in our ongoing community engagement for our community cultural hub at the Sun Wah Centre in Chinatown, and how we have responded in the project’s vision, design, tenanting and programming.


Space is under threat in Chinatown. The rapid influx of capital to the neighborhood is threatening heritage, the long history of cultural production, and the existing groups working in the community. Spaces are being lost to redevelopment and sky rocketing property taxes create precarious tenancies.

  • Secured 49,000 square feet of vacant space in the Sun Wah Centre for a 10 year term with two 10 year options to renew;
  • Lease rates are, at maximum, $2 per square foot per month. This is an “all-in” rate that includes rent, property taxes, a proportionate share of common area costs, utilities, wi-fi, access to roof-top garden, kitchen facilities and other amenities;
  • Creating three new accessible and affordable cultural spaces in Chinatown that are bookable for community use;
  • Held two application processes for potential tenants to inform design and project vision;
  • Offering a range of lease term lengths to tenants to accommodate a variety of needs;
  • Hired our architect and construction management teams based on social procurement principles.
  • Confirming lease offers with potential tenants;
  • Construction period;
  • Operations beginning in the fall.

BC Artscape is new to Chinatown. Understanding and appreciating the history and diverse perspectives on the future of this place will strengthen the positive impact BC Artscape can have in the community.

  • Hired a multi-lingual team with deep understanding and commitment to the neighbourhood to lead our community engagement:
    • Held Open Houses to share information about the project and tour our space;
    • Met 1-1 with community leaders and key stakeholders to hear their perspective on Chinatown and the role of a community arts and cultural centre;
    • Met with the existing tenants of the Sun Wah Centre, who will be staying, to share information about the project and understand their perspective;
    • Held an online visioning survey about the role of a community arts and cultural centre in Chinatown;
    • Held roundtable discussions with community members.
  • Formed a Community Steering Committee of local residents, business owners and community members to provide advice on the project. While the Committee is ongoing, to date this has included guidance on the project vision, tenant criteria and selection, intersectional issues, security and accessibility;
  • Moved BC Artscape’s office to the Sun Wah Centre to contribute to our efforts to build connections within the building and the neighbourhood;
  • Ensured materials and information are available in both English and Chinese.
  • Continue to work with Community Steering Committee to test the project’s mission and principles;
  • Hire for a Chinese-speaking staff position that will manage the building and continue to build relationship with tenants and the wider community;
  • Working with Heritage Vancouver to understand how to embed cultural heritage values in a new space;
  • With the support and guidance of tenants who are long-standing members of the community, create and implement an “orientation” to the neighborhood for tenants who are new locals.

BC Artscape has the opportunity to reflect the complexity and needs of the diverse community through the tenants, programming, and spaces at our community arts and cultural centre.

  • Set the criteria to be a tenant at BC Artscape according to these principles;
  • With community engagement staff and community, evaluated tenant applications and made offers based on these principles. Our selection process emphasized intergenerational and intercultural representation including Chinese-/Asian-Canadian artists and cultural organizations, First Nations artists and cultural organizations, community service providers, and tenants who represent the project’s values of transmission of heritage, different generations, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, and programming that supports community;
  • Active recruitment of Chinese seniors groups as tenants to ensure Chinese seniors are represented within tenancy and programming;
  • Ensured DTES experiences and expertise are reflected in membership of Community Steering Committee, and in tenants and program partners;
  • Created safe, welcoming and accessible space in the project’s design for for arts and cultural programming and community gatherings, including a community kitchen for food programming and gatherings, flexible spaces on each floor for short-term bookings such as meetings and workshops, a public lounge area, and an intergenerational garden on the rooftop;
  • Consultation with community policing officer on floor plans and space design to ensure security for tenants, balanced with consultation with Chinese Community Policing Centre on soft skills training for staff and tenants;
  • Created a staff position for the building to manage the facility and work with tenants on common area programming and connection to the community.
  • Planning tenant adjacencies to reflect intergenerational and intercultural values of project;
  • Coordinating programming with tenants and program partners to provide relevant programs to encourage community participation;
  • Working with local community organizations to program the rooftop garden;
  • Working with Heritage Vancouver to provide signage and wayfinding that is accessible;
  • Continuing to work with individuals and groups to better understand and implement a balance between security and accessibility of our space;
  • Working with tenants to define a statement of contribution to the neighborhood in response to the project vision and values;
  • Developing the Community Stewardship plan, together with tenants and community members, to:
    • Encourage relevant programming that will activate the space and facilitate cross-cultural learning among tenants and their members/patrons
    • Outline how tenants and community members can contribute to the governance and ongoing operations of the community arts and cultural centre and support BC Artscape in the deliver of the project mission.
    • Ensure long-term financial and operational sustainability.
  • Developing an evaluation framework for community participation/tenant contribution to measure the impact and success of the project.