Cities for People: The Melancholy of East Chinatown

Broadview & Gerrard

This is the first in a series of posts by students in OCAD’s Cities for People summer workshop (click the link to read a bit about what the class was about). This East Chinatown post was researched and written by Kevin Liu, Jennifer Yim and Houtina Chim. Be sure to click on the detailed psychogeographic map of the neighbourhood at the end.

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Any true Chinatown is an experience for all senses. You smell a concoction of everything from live fish, cardboard boxes full of bok choy, to whiffs of barbecue-sauced pork. You hear the grocery store workers boast of discounts in thick rural Chinese accents, and you see an array of amateur signage in a jumbled assortment of colours and languages. We walk through the intersection of Broadview and Gerrard often, passing by without a second glance. Chinatown is Chinatown, we think to ourselves. But take a closer look into East Chinatown, and you’ll realize that although signs may be up, the interiors are largely empty—reminiscent of what was once a much livelier neighbourhood.

You’ll begin to notice the shops that are left. These mostly tend to be grocery stores and Vietnamese restaurants. The ones that aren’t Vietnamese have remained relatively unchanged for over a decade.

The tale of East Chinatown is one of decline that accelerated ten years ago during Toronto’s bid for the 2008 summer Olympic games. Proposals to build the Olympic village near East Chinatown raised its surrounding property values. But as we all know, in 2001, Toronto lost that bid to Beijing; and in turn, down went the property values until the development of the film studios by the southern Portlands. As land value rose again, the Chinese living in the community took the opportunity to sell their houses for more than double what they originally bought them for and with the returns moved up north amongst the new generation of established Hong Kong immigrants.

Today, you don’t have to go to a Chinatown to get kai lan (Chinese broccoli) or Hoisin sauce. They can be found in T&T Supermarkets or smaller chains of Chinese grocers all across the city. Even some Western grocery stores may stock a good amount of specialized Asian food ingredients.

While the demographic of the surrounding area has changed, the stores largely have not. The newer Chinese generation, the few that are left in the area, are more attracted to the clean and friendly T&T Supermarket on Cherry Street. Many of the new residents that have since moved in have no interest in pirated Hong Kong television dramas, or phone cards, or kai lan. They’re also given an array of food options outside the immediate area that are in direct competition with East Chinatown. They can eat on the Danforth. They can dine, drink espressos and visit galleries on the gentrifying Queen Street East. Or they can drop by the renovated stores at Gerrard Square. For many who walk through East Chinatown, it’s not their intended destination, but the in-between transition zone to a destination.

And if you aren’t from the area, why would you travel to East Chinatown? Spadina Chinatown, too, has phở and ethnic grocery stores. It oozes with identity and the area is much larger in comparison, with wider sidewalks and plenty more pedestrians. But perhaps most importantly, it’s in a better location. The Spadina Chinatown is just a walk away from various shopping strips, clubs, theatres, museums and galleries, and a network of other ethnic neighbourhoods.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67YA3G-kvKI[/youtube]

As we sit down with a waiter from one of the Vietnamese restaurants—a resident of East Chinatown for ten years and a part-time real estate broker for the area, he begins to tell us an anecdote about the changing social climate. An excerpted audio of the conversation can be heard above.

Far out east, with its intended demographic gone north, East Chinatown is on the brink of extinction. While the two Green P parking lots by the main intersection have gotten a little boost in forms of public art and the western Green P finally fulfills the promise of a Chinatown gate depicted within an iconic mural painted nearby ten years prior, the area is still in desperate need of revitalization.

What should be done? Should the streets be cleaned, injecting character in order to attract a new crowd? Are there ways of shaping East Chinatown to be more relevant to the new inhabitants of today? Can East Chinatown be something not offered by Spadina, Steeles, or Cherry Street? And if the “China” within “Chinatown” be better left to naturally shrink, what sort of place should it become?

Cities for People: East Chinatown Pyschogeographic Map

Click for our psychogeographic map of East Chinatown’s living, dead businesses and their smells.
(Note: The above image file is fairly large @ 1.7 MB and was made for print so there is will be some orientation awkwardness online)

33 comments

  1. I agree with much of the article, but be careful of generalization.

    “The newer Chinese generation, the few that are left in the area, are more attracted to the clean and friendly T&T Supermarket on Cherry Street. The Caucasians that have since moved in have no interest in pirated Hong Kong television dramas, or phone cards, or kai lan.”

    I prefer T&T’s cleanliness and selection, and agree Spadina Chinatown has more variety. However, though Caucasian, I am ‘interested’ in East Chinatown, because the shopping is nearer to my carless home than the other two options. The same goes for my Japanese wife (you ignored everyone in Toronto not Chinese or Caucasian) who can find many foods she needs.

    Although I can see the seriousness you put into the article, perhaps it would have been a good idea to have one person help with the article who is not ethnic-Chinese (if I have made an incorrect assumption from your surnames, I apologise). I would not assume to tell first generation, or later born, ethnic-Chinese why they shop where they do, because I have nto had that experience. The assumptions you made would have more credibility with a greater variety of surnames among the authors.

  2. Sorry, one more point: not everyone owns, or cares to own, a car and drive all over the city for groceries, dim sum or pho. There are even some, who cannot afford to!

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, James. This is the kind of response we were hoping for (either starting a discussion or constructive criticism) — a sort of extended and public critique session/topic discussion (that usually happens within the confines of a classroom).

  4. I lived near that corner in the early 1980′s and while it was busier I cant say it ever wasn’t melancholy in spirit. (There was a real estate boom then too that brought a lot of new people to the area).That said there was a real mixture of stuff there like “Crown Fish and Chips” (which predated the Chinese stores) and further south “Marty’s Cabbagetown Extension”, a dinner that sat about 6 people and was only open overnight. At the south end of that strip you had the “Dennis House” and the “R.A.O.B.”. That whole area didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be and thats what made it interesting. It represents a time before we needed to give tribal branding names to every section of the city; it was just Broadview and Gerrard and that was a varied thing.

  5. very interesting observations and questions.

    i was through the area last saturday. best prices on fruit and veg in the east end. reason enough to go there. and plenty of non asians in Bimmers and Jags to boot, shopping for groceries and eating in the very few restaurants now left there.

    a very odd experience.

    i grew up in the area, and lived in the area as an adult until leaving toronto twenty years ago.

    it’s changed. it is less vibrant, there are fewer restaurants, and there seems to be little social cohesion. East Chinatown is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not much on naming areas ‘ethnically’ i.e. the danforth being greektown leads to a kind of disneyfication. the greeks haven’t occupied the surrounding area since the 80s. and in fact there is very little greek left on the danforth itself.

    the ethnic chinese that moved from vietnam in the late seventies and took up residence in the area are long gone, it would seem. if we dropped the east chinatown moniker first, we might be able to come up with some decent ideas.

    it seems a natural reintegration with the surrounding neighbourhood would be optimal.

  6. Montreal’s “other Chinatown in downtown” is actually a budding one — one that I think is slowly replacing an otherwise decaying area known as Ste-Cath West (an area roughly between metro stations Atwater and Guy-Concordia on the Green Line).

    Here is an article that I wrote for Spacing Montréal a few months ago:
    http://spacingmontreal.ca/2009/04/14/montreals-other-chinatown-in-2009/

    This other Chinatown is being grown because of nearby Concordia University, which attracts many student from overseas. Aside from Chinese or Asian businesses, the area also brought in a number of Middle Eastern ones.

    Here’s a map of the area, marked with where the Chinese-Canadian-owned businesses are located:
    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&source=embed&msa=0&msid=112930762430072237049.0004677d0d6a702882aed&ll=45.494107,-73.57988&spn=0.007641,0.016029&z=16

  7. The original “Greektown” was by Christie pits in the 1960′s and there are still one or two Greek themed businesses left.

  8. I like the map! Personally I would be tempted to distinguish between “live businesses” and “live public institutions” (such as the library and Riverdale CI).

  9. I have long made the argument that effects of Toronto’s high commercial taxes would be felt heterogeneously. Be acting as a sort of ‘price of admission’ competition is limited. Dukes Cycle, Jacobs Hardware and the like, get pushed out creating a vacuum that large stores like WalMart, T&T and Canadian Tire fill. You should also note the preponderance of businesses that handle cash as being those remaining.

  10. It seems to me there are 2 questions at work here:

    What is the area like today?

    What would we (as a city/society) like it to become (and how might we facilitate that)

    ****

    The area as is, is certainly tired in places, and as noted has been in the process of demographic shift for some time.

    I’m not sure what the exact ethnic breakdown of the area would be, but I would assume, that ‘Europeans’ in the broad sense form the largest residential community in the area, probably followed by the Vietnamese and other Chinese and East-Asian groupings (someone feel free to correct me if they are more knowledgeable on this point).

    While businesses in the area are more Vietnamese and Chinese, with far too many vacant store fronts.

    *****

    This being the case we can build the area in any number of directions.

    The so-called ‘Ethnic shopping areas’ serve two fundamental purposes in my mind. One is to provide the local residential community and particularly new immigrants of whatever background some familiarity and social resource with access to familiar foods and products often with service in their mother tongue.

    The other key purpose of such agglomerations is tourism.

    If the former reason no longer justifies a single-ethnic cluster of Chinese businesses for this area, then perhaps it is time to let the neighbourhood evolve to something new…

    On the other hand, as has been pointed out, Little Italy, Greektown and other areas are not necessarily geared to a local resident group anymore but still serve both a tourist market and to some degree act as cultural hub.

    Should Chinatown East be seen in this light? Should its focus formally change to little Vietnam?

    Or to an East-Asian melting pot?

    ******

    Any which way the area goes, much more needs to be done to ameliorate the area.

    As a shopper I enjoy the ethnic variety and don’t mind the slightly chaotic street feel with vendors occupying sidewalks.

    This is the charm of many areas, including Kensington.

    But where in Kensington one can walk on the road to deal with cramped sidewalks, one faces a very busy Gerrard in Chinatown East that makes this near impossible.

    There are a lack of quality pedestrian spaces, cramped sidewalks, neglected heritage (buildings)and the area doesn’t quite feel like a full-service ethnic hub.

    Neither does it have the streetscape that offers exceptional beauty or some sort of play to the supposed ethnic offer. (ie. Chinese lanterns for pedestrian lighting?)

    I’m not sure where the area is going or where it should go; I think that really is for local residents and businesses to determine, but perhaps the City should be proactive in offering to help.

  11. Thanks for the reply James. You’ve pointed out something important in the use of the word Caucasians, which, would not be so correct to use for the Chinatown East issue.

    What we should have said, instead of Caucasian, is that “Many of the new residents are not interested.” Which would incorporate other populations other than Caucasians.

    Because even with these ethnic distinctions, Chinatown East’s problem does not change. After having lived and shopped there myself for the last decade, and through research conducted for this class, it becomes clear that this Chinatown’s problem in recent years, is that it does not attracting ENOUGH locals. (I emphasize enough because there are undoubtedly many who do find interest in it.)And that the trend suggests this lack of attraction has to do with the new generation of residents (regardless of ethnicity) moving in, who do not have the same long-term relationship with this Chinatown.

    There are local Japanese who shop there, as there are Chinese and Caucasians who do. But there are, also Japanese, Chinese and Caucasians among other ethnicities, who don’t. This applies whether you are a new resident or an old one as well. Chinatown East needs some way to attract all local ethnic populations who don’t yet have interest in it.

  12. Thanks for the reply James. You’ve pointed out something important in the use of the word Caucasians, which, would not be so correct to use for the Chinatown East issue.

    What we should have said, instead of Caucasian, is that “Many of the new residents are not interested.” Which would incorporate other populations other than Caucasians.

    Because even with these ethnic distinctions, Chinatown East’s problem does not change. After having lived and shopped there myself for the last decade, and through research conducted for this class, it becomes clear that this Chinatown’s problem in recent years, is that it does not attracting ENOUGH locals. (I emphasize enough because there are undoubtedly many who do find interest in it.)And that the trend suggests this lack of attraction has to do with the new generation of residents (regardless of ethnicity) moving in, who do not have the same long-term relationship with this Chinatown.

    There are local Japanese who shop there, as there are Chinese and Caucasians who do. But there are, also Japanese, Chinese and Caucasians among other ethnicities, who don’t. This applies whether you are a new resident or an old one as well. Chinatown East needs some way to attract all local ethnic populations who don’t yet have interest in it.

    - Kevin Liu

  13. Kevin,

    Why then would the vacant stores not be occupied by businesses that better reflect the new ethnic makeup of the area? Or ethnically agnostic ones?

  14. Thanks Kevin (btw, ‘James’ is a different person). I never thought you were culturally insensitive, just a little careless. I appreciate the article, but next time wouldn’t it be interesting to take along a visible-majority, and a non-Chinese visible-minority?

    But, on the main topic: I agree with your conclusions about the problems with E. Chinatown, and some of the other commentators’. It’s shabby, and the too narrow sidewalks are overrun. It should be a desirable area for businesses, given some polish. It sits on three busy streetcar lines, near some wealthy housing, and the Don Jail’s been closed.

    The ideal solution is a renovation which honours the area’s history, but looks to its future. The most needed thing is to widen those sidewalks, and reduce the traffic issues. I see no other way to do that than remove the curb-lane parking, widen the sidewalks, and use the remaining space for a unencroachable bike lane. This is not an easy sell to city hall or Toronto merchants, but the fact is those few parking spots do not drive business, whereas (study after study shows) a pleasant transit, pedestrian and cycling zone does.

    When I do use Autoshare to go shopping for Asian food with my wife, I go where there is easier and more parking: T&T. No downtown street can, or should, compete with that. E. Chinatown will become a more attractive area by better serving its immediate neighbourhood well. Make it less $#!+y to walk there, and have more boutiques, cafes and restaurants, along with some supermarkets and pho and dim sum restaurants.

  15. the surrounding areas have gentrified considerably over the past couple of decades with little change to chinatown east. why? i don’t know. i still find it remarkable that pictures of broadview and gerrard in the early 1900s are still totally recognisable today, so perhaps looking at the past couple of decades is too limited. on the other hand, little india (also on gerrard street east) has changed substantially during the same period.

  16. I’m not Chinese, as you can probably guess from my name, nor am I a Torontonian, but I think part of the issue with Chinatown East is it’s ethnic identification, as noted by Brian in an above comment. I did a paper for a class last semester on North American Chinatowns, and one of the most interesting trends is the fact that the traditional downtown Chinatown is no longer much of a destination for ethnic Chinese. In many cases, of course, Chinatowns have become tourist destinations—Spadina is an excellent example of this phenomenon—but the ones that don’t make that transition tend to become stagnant.

    Of course, all of this is ignoring the fact that Chinatown is essentially a construction of the white majority anyway, and that the vast majority of Chinese settlement in North American cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, New York City, etc. is suburban in nature. Truthfully, I don’t think two Chinatowns are really viable in downtown Toronto. Chinatown East will find it’s own identity again eventually, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t Chinese or Asian in the slightest.

  17. This thread is getting a bit bogged down in race. Why are locals not interested ? 2 thoughts.

    1. Maybe Chinatown East does not reflect what and where people want to shop. And thats it.

    2. Why are there few good seafood restaurants in PEI ? Because locals eat at home. You can now buy sushi in Toronto at 7/11 stores. “Ethnic” food is now everybody’s food and people like to cook it at home and can buy the ingredients at No Frills. Maybe they are not disinterested but in fact engaged but dont need to shop in Chinatown East.

  18. Glen>
    I think for the empty businesses to start catering to the new local population, would mean a shift in paradigm. Entrepreneurs need to
    realize that the current way of seeing things – its a Chinatown, it needs to have ethnically Chinese stores – needs to change or evolve. Or perhaps the local BIA needs to start considering that as well.

    Scottd>
    Yes, in the actual article, we mentioned that Chinese ethnic stores have become ubiquitous in Toronto. No Frills and Food Basics are a block away from East Chinatown. You can go to Queen or Danforth for restaurants as well. That’s one of the problems with this Chinatown, that it’s surroundings compete with it, as they share the same purposes but are more attractive. People are interested in Chinatown perhaps, but they have better options nearby.

    One of the questions is, how then do we make the current Chinatown East into an experience that is unique to its surroundings? How do we give it a special role so that locals are not just interested/engaged in Chinatown East, as you put it, but also NEED use it for its purposes?

    jamesmallon>
    We do in fact plan to widen the sidewalk for the design solution, and perhaps even take out the curbed sidewalk altogether to bring a unity between pedestrian and road, encouraging a more intimate atmosphere. The main focus of our design will definitely be on attracting locals, because that’s the one big thing that Chinatown East has gunning for it that other places in Toronto cannot offer: convenience for its immediate residents. Those outside this neighborhood have the whole city at their disposal, and can shop in many other places besides Chinatown East, as mentioned in the article.

    - Kevin Liu

  19. Kevin,

    when considering widening the sidewalks you will need to take into consideration truck deliveries which seem to take place regularly during the day. i’m not sure there is a back lane. (?)

    as for (car) traffic flow, you may want to look at the new hospital and roadways just west of broadview. i really do think gerrard from broadview to logan could be a car free zone. it’s just about impossible to move along there now anyway. and in the winter it is a pinch point beyond belief. eastbound flows could be pushed up broadview as they have for ever and a day via the don jail roadway (or whatever the new roadway will be called) westbound flows could be turned south at carlaw.

    what if we were very ambitious and created an outdoor mall? a covered space from broadview to degrassi or boulton with access available to streetcars and local deliveries.

    a bike lane would be good. (not sure why TO has this tendency to want to put bike traffic beside car traffic i.e. Dundas, Eastern, and Danforth-Bloor, as opposed to transit traffic. weird…)

    most of the focus has been on the commercial aspect of the strip which is, imo, right. local on foot attraction, something contrary to Gerrard Square, T&T, and No Frills.

    the current area seems an anti-magnet to both locals and non-locals.

  20. Demographic information from the 2006 census on Lower Riverdale (south of Gerrard, Don River to Greenwood)) and Northwest Riverdale (Between Gerrard and Danforth, Don River and Pape) can be found on the city of Toronto website.

    http://www.toronto.ca/demographics/cns_profiles/cns68.htm

    http://www.toronto.ca/demographics/cns_profiles/cns70.htm

    Compared to all of Toronto, the area is more white, more Englich-speaking, and has fewer recent immigrants. The proportion of Chinese-Canadians has declined from 2001 to 2006. All this can explain why the area is no longer as successful as a gathering place for Chinese-Canadians.

    (The option of a “theme-park chinatown” is still open, but I don’t think even Toronto needs two Chinese urban theme parks.)

    The area is also rich — the number of families making more that $100,000 is between 33% and 50%, and rising rapidly! And it has fewer seniors and children.

    I see no reason why such a rich, gentrifying neighbourhood shouldn’t have a succesful high street.

  21. Wow. Great to see my neighbourhood profiled. I am a local and have been for the last 20 years. It’s been interesting watching all the changes in the area.

    I agree with those who track the demographic changes and would like to add the comment that in some cases second generation families make a big difference. The sister/brother/mother/father team at Mimi’s on Gerrard run a terrific, friendly, affordable Vietnamese restaurant that is very popular with locals. Worth a visit. As are the various bakeries which kids enjoy. Long live almond cookies.

    Often I think the challenge of the East Chinatown BIA is simply evolutionary. It seems to really come down to how many cycles and how much experience an area has catering to local’s needs that determines success.

    The Taste of the Danforth, for example, is very slick as compared to the Taste of Little India Festival and both put East Chinatown’s Fall street festival to shame. Interestingly the East Chinatown BIA doesn’t advertise or communicate to locals about this event even one block away. We’re often surprised to find the roads closed and a major event underway. I think this partly myopic but also just due to lack of the appropriately sophisticated marketing skills.

    Finally, for all of Toronto’s much vaunted diversity I think we have a long way to go towards integration at any level beyond one to one and with neighbours and co-workers. I’d be willing to bet one of my favourite almond cookies that the Danforth BIA and the Little India BIA have never met with the East Chinatown BIA to compare notes. We’re still a very young city in many ways.

    And one last aside…I’d be pleased to see someone take a look at the stretch of storefronts on Gerrard between Logan and Carlaw (south side) and comment. Once home to Handy Andy’s crazy sign shop this 8 store row on a busy, centre of gentrification and with the all important super wide sidewalks has never had a business in the last 30 years that attracts locals. This strip is dying for a makeover or a lead shop.

    Thx

  22. Maybe the local BIA could run a campaign to differentiate it from the bigger chinatown on Spadina. Something along the lines of “not the chinatown featured in the youtube rat vids”.

    Maybe artists who have been displaced by the condo-boom will discover it and move in.

  23. Thanks for the demographics Pede-strain. While many on this site are concerned with “urban use’ issues, there is little in the way of economic analysis. That is not a knock on Spacing, I don’t expect it to be a jack of all trades.

    Though your comment “I see no reason why such a rich, gentrifying neighbourhood shouldn’t’t have a successful high street” does have an answer. It is a fate set to befall many areas in the city. As the cap on non residential tax rates creep up, many landlords find themselves in the position that it is better to have a vacant property to save on taxes and be unencumbered by a lease. You are right, that this should not be the case, but Toronto’s tax climate is spelling the end to small businesses.

    I was looking at a listing of a commercial property on Queen ST. recently. A 2800 sq foot 2 story building with taxes of 9,000 per year. Those taxes are being capped. Eventually they will reach more than $30,000 per year. This will eventually put pressure on the value of the building which will entice the landlord to convert the property to residential.

  24. “This will eventually put pressure on the value of the building which will entice the landlord to convert the property to residential.” Availability of which will lower ownership costs, which will bring more people into the core to pay both residential and non residential taxes. Sounds good to me.

    In Holland they have a simpler rule (but would never get implemented in our property-centric common-law): if it is vacant for six months, you are allowed to squat in it. I don’t think this would make a lot of squatters, but I do think it would suitably punish developers for sitting on the ‘missing teeth’ of a streetscape.

  25. brian moffatt>
    We were actually looking at the new Don Mills outdoor shopping center as possible inspiration. There are definitely some cool concepts from that establishment that would be interesting to to implement in revitalization of this Chinatown. As for a car free zone, it is pretty unfortunate that Chinatown East can never be truly car free, with the existence of well used streetcar route running through it. There might be compromises to explore though.

    Pede-strain>
    Thanks for the census coverage! These new affluent “English speakers” don’t have the connection with ChTownE that older residences do. It’s interesting to consider that perhaps ChTownE needs play catch-up with an area that is already gentrifying. Almost a reverse to the gentrifying Queen Broadview Village (Riverside) business strip just south of it.

    jamesmallon>
    YES! Mimi is my pho place of choice. Along with 88 (cheaper) and Hanoi3Seasons (a bit too pricey.)

    Also, just wondering. Are you suggesting about ChTownE – based on Glen’s comment – that it would be in the city’s greater interest if it potentially evolved to become more residential? That would be interesting.

    - Kevin Liu

  26. jamesmallon: “Availability of which will lower ownership costs, which will bring more people into the core to pay both residential and non residential taxes. Sounds good to me.”

    It also sounds good to those running the city. Which is why it is such a mess. That building example I gave probably consumes no more than 6,000 per year in city services. If it replaced by residential, the revenue goes way down and the expenses go way up. In other words, the residential class and the expense of the services provided to it are not meet by revenue. As the city grows in population but loses its non-residential assessment base the structural deficit becomes worse.

  27. Re: “I see no reason why such a rich, gentrifying neighbourhood shouldn’t’t have a successful high street” – Cabbagetown is a similar (if much wealthier) neighbourhood but parts of Parliament still look like a war zone/dollar store museum.

  28. uh oh, someone’s taking a knock on their hood personally ;) As they should of course.

    To me, Cabbagetown is a sometimes hilarious mix between dollar-store and yuppie, with some great mid-range too. The cheek-by-jowl mix of economic classes here is something that both feels particularly Toronto, but also unparalleled in Toronto.

  29. Parliament is one of the one most interesting streets in Toronto for all you mention, Andrew — but “war zone” is OTT. Toronto doesn’t look like a “war zone” anywhere.

  30. Maybe we sometimes go too far in our desire for urban makeovers. A city can only support so many trendy ‘hoods with cafés, galleries and boutiques. This area is between Queen E. and the Danforth so it has lots of competition.

    Maybe it’s okay for a city to have some areas in semi-fallow for a while. It’s not a bad area for crime and you don’t get panhandled around there much.

  31. in my opinion, few reasons why so many store are not operating business.

    1)East china town and west china town are tourism area. The business in these two area need to have people coming from other city or coutnry to visit to shop or to eat. However many people perfer to travel to another city or country rather than Canada or Toronto. Cause the tax in Canada is too high. So East china town and west china town lose business. and people don’t have money to spent because of the resession. I believe business in everywhere are very slow since 2008 as well as markham, scarborough, downtown, richmond hill. The renters of the store don’t have choices casue they sign the lease.

    2)Most owners of the property in East China town have no mortgage to pay. They don’t want to operate the business that is not busy and they don’t need to rent out their store to other people cause they already pay off their mortgage so they just leave their store vacant. Most owners of property in west china town can’t afford to leave their store vacant because their properties are more expensive than those in east china town.

    This is only my opinion. but i think east china town is a nice place and convenient place.

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