Hundreds gathered for a second Sunday in a row to protest the sale and possible renovation to the Phoenix Chinese Cultural Center.
The cultural center, at 44th Street near State Route 202, was sold to True North Companies in June, which plans to renovate the property as a business center and corporate headquarters.
But members of the the Phoenix-area’s Asian community are protesting potential renovations under the new ownership and want to preserve the center’s garden and aesthetic that have become a hub for the Chinese community.
Frank Zhang, the president of Arizona Asian Alliance, said that True North Companies has failed to communicate or meet with him and the group’s lawyer, Paul Gilbert, to negotiate the renovations that are planned to take place.
“We are trying to negotiate with the owner so we can preserve this cultural center,” Gilbert said. “We are willing to purchase the center from the owner and give him a profit or work with him to preserve the buildings and promote the Chinese culture.”
Efforts by the community to preserve the center might be more complicated than expected, Michelle Dodds of the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission told The Arizona Republic.
Sites do not usually qualify for protected historic status unless they are at least 50 years old or exceptionally important, she said, and there is still not enough evidence to prove the cultural center’s significance.
The center was originally built by a state-owned Chinese company called COFCO in 1997, but COFCO is no longer involved, and the center was not at full occupancy.
Charlie Lai, the owner of Super L Ranch Market, is only one of the businesses that will be downsizing and relocating out of the cultural center due to the new owners. The market’s relocation to a smaller space will cause the termination of 55 of his employees.
Not all Chinese-owned businesses will leave the center.
Since 2000, therestaurant Szechwan Palace has found a home within the cultural center and is the only business in the plaza to own its lot.
“When we bought his property, we were told that there would be stores that would feature Chinese business, but now, we will be the only ones here,” said its owner, Michael Zhao. “I believe our business will be affected.”
According to a statement released by a representative, True North Companies has met with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and intends to meet with the members of the Chinese community soon to discuss what renovations, if any, would take place.
By Melina Zuñiga