About the Project
Chinatown is an important center for Asian life and culture in Philadelphia. Over the years, recreation, housing and social service needs have all outgrown the original neighborhood. Philadelphia Chinatown Development Cooperation has worked with the community to create an ambitious plan for a multi-use community center to address those needs.
The Crane Chinatown Building at 10th and Vine Streets is a mixed-use center providing
- family programs
- youth and senior programs
- educational and health services
- social, recreational and cultural events
- business space
The building has improved the quality of the neighborhood and will help the Chinatown community expand north of Vine Street. It will provide quality housing for retirees looking for a place to grow old, new immigrants looking for a place to call home and Center City working professionals.
After decades of planning, the Crane building is an important accomplishment, despite the pressure of the recent redevelopment and gentrification of the neighborhood. Crane Chinatown is the new heart of the community, symbolizing strength and vitality.
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*This website is a work-in-progress. We will add more details and documentation as the project progresses.
Public Art at the Crane Building, The Past Supporting the Future
To mark the importance of the Crane building, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and PHDC have asked four Asian artists to create murals inside and outside the new building. The theme of the art will be “The Past Supporting the Future.”
The artists are excited to talk with people connected to the Chinatown community. Share your history and ideas, stories and experiences. You will help us get ideas for the artwork. Later in the process, there will be opportunities to help paint the outdoor mural. All Asian-Americans in Philadelphia, and especially the Chinatown community, are invited to join the conversation.
In the coming months, the artists will be inviting the public to participate in:
- Brainstorming sessions
- Workshops teaching you how to make video-recordings with families and friends
- Painting workshops
Due to Covid-19 we will be conducting most of the workshops and interviews online. We will use Zoom, WeChat, Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime and other platforms.
Some issues we hope to explore:
- Chinatown’s history
- Asian-American experiences in the U.S. and Philadelphia
- The experience of immigrants coming to the U.S.
- The experience of U.S.-born Asian Americans
- Hopes for the future
- Relationships with countries of origin
- What it means to have a historic Chinatown Philly, and how it relates to more recent Asian-American neighborhoods, (for example- the Vietnamese community in South Philly)
Would you like to be a part of this important project? Please contact the Chinatown Crane Mural Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To thank you for your participation, we will be offering project participants gift certificates from Asian-owned Chinatown businesses (as long as supplies last).
The Philadelphia Chinatown Neighborhood
Crane represents the rebirth of what was destroyed by the Vine Street Expressway. It is emblematic of our hopes and aspirations as a neighborhood in the greater Philadelphia community. Our goal is for Chinatown to be a place where people of all income levels can afford to live. The community center should be a gem for all of Philadelphia – a means to connect with people who live and work in Chinatown.
Philadelphia’s Chinatown dates back 150 years, and for nearly a century was centered on the 900 block of Race Street. While it still occupies only a few square blocks in this area, it is the cultural and commercial hearth for 250,000 Chinese Americans in the Philadelphia region. The Chinese immigrant population is dynamic and diverse, with Cantonese, Mandarin, Fujianese, Vietnamese, Cambodian among other languages being spoken.
Philadelphia’s Chinatown, like Chinatowns throughout the U.S., has survived a legacy of struggle. Philadelphia’s Chinese population saw rapid growth in the 1960s, but at the same time major infrastructure investments such as the Vine Street Expressway, The Gallery at Market East, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center encircled and constrained its growth. For many years the community has sought to grow north of the Vine Street Expressway in Chinatown North/Callowhill.
PCDC’s Chinatown Neighborhood Plan was completed in 2017, as the neighborhood was experiencing the economic pressure of a resurgent Center City that was triggering rapid reinvestment in nearby neighborhoods like Callowhill and Northern Liberties. The plan noted rapidly rising real estate prices, a steep decline in the number of people who were both living and working in Chinatown, and an increasing concentration of low-income and upper-income residents.
The plan recommended several key principles:
- ensure the neighborhood remains accessible to low-income residents
- improve connections across the Vine Street Expressway
- create more public space and programming for community use,
- strengthen Chinatown’s commercial core and expand it across Vine Street
- promote community wellness and health
- grow and amplify community voices.
Historic Chinatowns are difficult to replicate because they evolved organically as unique ecosystems with an ability to bridge the gap between lower-income, recent immigrants and outside visitors. They are important places of cultural exchange; a “home away from home” for immigrants that helps them adapt to American life and also a “city within the city” where native-born Americans can learn about another culture. What makes historic Chinatowns vibrant and thriving neighborhoods is what undergirds the tourist-friendly surface– the residents, workers, small industries, community institutions, services and deep-rooted social networks. In Philadelphia, the balance of this ecosystem is shifting as working-class immigrants are increasingly being priced out.
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC)c
Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC)c