The autumn of 1982 was a critical time for Calgary’s Chinatown because of a proposed land redesignation. Like the rest of the downtown core’s infrastructure, buildings in Chinatown would be redesigned as tall skyscrapers. The concern of many parties was that Chinatown would disintegrate and disappear in the process of this redesign project. The Chinese people who had immigrated from China and the City Council saw Chinatown as a distinct and unique community worthy of preservation. However, without a revitalization plan, Chinatown would have deteriorated along with many of the other Chinatowns across North America.
Through consecutive weekly meetings over the period of nearly a year and a half, Chinatown was unanimously accepted, approved, and adopted by all members involved in the process. Landowners responded very positively and began building new premises to meet the needs of the newly revised Chinatown. However, a critical event occurred near the end of the Area Redevelopment Plan (A.R.P.) – a proposal was put forth to reduce the Chinatown area by 40% of its total land area. The area was already small and further reduction greatly threatened Chinatown’s existence.
Removal of such a big part of the Chinatown area would cause irreparable damages to the existing community and go on to threaten its very survival and existence. Counter proposals were made to prevent the land reduction and a new plan was unanimously agreed upon by all involved parties. The Calgary Planning Department’s involvement was particularly praiseworthy as they held the interests and welfare of the Chinese community at heart throughout the entire process. Their dedication and professionalism enabled them to find a solution which made all those involved very happy.
When a group of community-minded individuals committed themselves to the project eight years previously, with the same vision for the Cultural Centre, the aspirations of the community were fulfilled. Given the opportunity and good leadership, a community could channel its energy and resources to accomplish many useful and meaningful goals. The completion of the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre did not mark the end of their work: it exists as an on-going effort to preserve and foster multiculturalism.
At the Chinese Cultural Centre’s dedication in 1992, local businessman Dr. Henry Fok gave a speech:
"The Chinese have an expression: 'Like the sea being a gathering place of hundreds of rivers regardless of their sources, broadmindedness commands immense tolerance to different ideas and thoughts regardless of their origin.'”
The primary reason for an outstanding culture to be able to endure thousands of years without losing its vitality is due to its ability to incorporate different ideas and philosophies from other cultures into its own.’
While he might have been addressing the Chinese, his speech also fits in a description of Canada as a whole. The Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre aims to honor the vision in Dr. Fok’s speech and continue serving the entire community.