“我的家在唐人街”: 聚焦费城华埠的基建与发展



“我的家在唐人街”: 聚焦费城华埠的基建与发展

Philadelphia’s Chinatown: A Forever Home



Reporter:Bei Li


This is the fifth article in a series of “Community Voices” articles developed by New Mainstream Press in partnership with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, alongside support from the Independence Public Media Foundation.
Drums were booming, firecrackers were crackling, and colorful lion dancers were leaping. On February 11, 2024, the second day of the Lunar New Year, Philadelphia’s Chinatown was bustling with a sea of people as cheers echoed through the air. Every Lunar New Year, Philadelphia’s Chinatown comes alive with extraordinary excitement. It’s hard to imagine that this vibrant scene is connected to the budding stages of Philadelphia’s Chinatown 150 years ago.新年

图片来源:The Philadelphia Inquirer
Photo Credit to The Philadelphia Inquirer


Philadelphia’s Chinatown has struggled against encroachment and assimilation over its 150-year history. This resilience has shaped the current strength of Chinatown, uplifting the community to celebrate its festivals proudly.新年2

图片来源:The Philadelphia Inquirer
Photo Credit to The Philadelphia Inquirer


Through a series of interviews, this article illustrates challenges related to land and infrastructure that play a major role in the survival and development of Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Through understanding our history, we can understand how to promote the sustainable development of our Chinatown and provide some paradigms that can be drawn upon by Chinatowns around the world.


“I measure the 150 years of Philadelphia’s Chinatown with my heart.”


“The first Chinese migrants built a flourishing Chinatown on Ninth and Race street— [it was] comprised of lodgings, laundromats, restaurants, and churches that became a gathering point for the diasporic community all over the region.” This description from the Philadelphia Inquirer article, “150 Years of Chinatown,” depicts the origins of Philadelphia Chinatown in the 1870s to the 1930s.唐人街地图

A map in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s "150 Years of Chinatown" showcases the makeup of Philadelphia Chinatown in the 1870s to 1930s.

这篇文章由《费城问询者报》的记者卢泽安和Massarah Mikati报道并于2023年11月发表。文章摘录了百余年来报纸上有关唐人街的报道,用“史实”展现了从1870年最初形成到遭遇到几次被侵占,费城唐人街通过抗争,求生存谋发展的历程。

Published in November 2023, reporters Jasen Lo, Massarah Mikati, and others use historical facts to outline the initial formation of Chinatown in 1870, its myriad challenges, and the community’s struggle to survive and resist harmful developments.
Surprisingly, one of the authors of this article is a young Chinese man, Jasen Lo, in his twenties, who moved to Philadelphia not long ago. Jasen hails from Hong Kong, China. After attending  an international school in his hometown, he moved to the United States to pursue a computer science degree at a university in California. Following graduation, he came to Philadelphia and joined The Inquirer. He enjoys the job as it allows him to utilize his expertise in the IT field while also writing stories and articles that he is passionate about.
“This article is something I wanted to write because last year, the Philadelphia 76ers’ plan to build an arena near Chinatown drew a lot of attention and faced significant opposition. As someone who has studied, worked, and lived in various places, I deeply understand everyone’s sentiments. To prepare for this article, I  spent three months going through a vast amount of old newspapers in the database, found relevant historical materials, and then wrote this article based on the collected information.”卢泽安

Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly


At the time this article was written, Philadelphia was in a crucial stage of the mayoral election for its 100th mayor. Philadelphians, including the Philadelphia Chinese community, who were concerned about the fate of Chinatown closely watched the mayoral candidates’ stances on the new 76ers arena.
“My colleagues are also writing reports about the proposed new 76ers arena, but they focus more on the present without delving into Chinatown’s history. You know, only when you understand the history of Philadelphia’s Chinatown can you comprehend why everyone is so concerned about the new arena near Chinatown.”新球馆

Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly


When Jasen Lo was working on the article, he conducted visits to Philadelphia’s Chinatown. “When I stood on 9th Street, I felt like I had found it [Chinatown] because you can see a lot of history with your own eyes. During the writing process, I tried to interview some elderly people, but it’s challenging to find individuals who were able to share their experiences. It’s quite regrettable, reminding us that if we don’t preserve and organize this history, it might be forgotten forever.” In Jasen Lo’s mind, these vanishing histories are worth everyone’s understanding and remembrance.


From displacement to having a place to call home.



On May 8, 2023, a grand groundbreaking ceremony was held for the 800 Vine Street Senior Apartments located in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. This senior apartment complex is an affordable housing project located at the intersection of 9th Street and Vine Street. It aims to provide housing for senior residents with incomes below 60% of the median in the area. The development includes 12 studio apartments, 38 one-bedroom units, and 1 two-bedroom unit.奠基典礼

Photo Credit to chinatown-pcdc.org/800-vine-advocacy/


“This project is a blessing for the long list of senior citizens who are rent burdened, living in overcrowded conditions, or living in substandard conditions.” John Chin, the Executive Director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), stated at the groundbreaking ceremony. 建造中

the 800 Vine Street Senior Apartments under construction,Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly


The history of affordable housing in Philadelphia’s Chinatown can be traced back to the 1960s with the construction of the Vine Street Expressway. According to the article “150 Years of Chinatown” published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, by the 1960s, there were 85 families and 800 people living in Chinatown. Its boundaries expanded north of Vine Street, especially around the Holy Redeemer Church and School — a staple of the Chinatown community since its founding in 1941.
In 1966, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced a plan for the Vine Street Expressway, intending to demolish the Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School and the surrounding Chinese residential area in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. PennDOT faced significant opposition from Chinatown, so the plan was altered to reduce the number of exits and allow the preservation of the Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School. However, residents in the path of the expressway still lost their homes.壁画

“The History of Chinatown” Mural Facing Vine Street
Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly


The plan to expand the Vine Street Expressway sparked widespread community organizing in Chinatown, which has endured since the urban renewal era. This movement is widely documented in the Yellow Seeds newspaper, which published bilingual information for the Asian community in Philadelphia. The cover story of the September 1973 edition reports on a community protest of demolition at Tenth and Vine Streets relating to the Vine Street Expressway construction.黄籽报

Cover of Yellow Seeds Newspaper in September 1973
Established in 1966, PCDC was the only institution in Chinatown that addresses the needs of urban renewal. After a decade of struggle, in 1975, PCDC received city funding, and the city planning & policy recommendations for Chinatown, known as the Chadbourne Report, were completed. This study prompted then-Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo to commit funding to build homes for the middle and low-income residents displaced due to government actions in Chinatown.
从唐人街第一个可负担住房项目到现在,费城华埠发展会在其中一直发挥着重要的作用。“你知道,唐人街这些年不断地被挤压,很多低收入者因为政府征地或者其它原因需要居所。如果没有费城华埠发展会的努力,唐人街真的会‘小’很多。”Andy Toy在接受采访时提到。十几年前,Andy Toy作为费城华埠发展会(PCDC)的董事会主席,参与了包括鼎华大厦等多个经济适用房和廉租房项目的开发。
From the first affordable housing project to the present, PCDC has played a crucial role throughout. “You know, Chinatown has been constantly squeezed over the years, and many low-income individuals need housing due to government land acquisition or other reasons. Without PCDC, Chinatown would really be much smaller.” Andy Toy said. Over a decade ago, Andy Toy was the board chairman of PCDC and became involved in the development of multiple affordable housing and low-income housing projects, including the Crane Chinatown.
There are several affordable housing projects in Philadelphia’s Chinatown and surrounding areas, offering a secure residence for low-income individuals. These include the development of 25 row houses on Spring Street between 9th and 11th Streets, completed in 1982, the 55-unit apartment building Wing Wah Yuen (Dynasty Court),located between 10th and 11th Streets on Race Street, completed in 1983, and the senior rental units at On Lok House, 219 North 10th Street, completed in 1984.Andy Toy

Photo Credit to AARP

“虽然在申请表中对申请人的族裔没有限制,但是申请者一般已经住在唐人街或者在唐人街工作,所以这里的经济适用房申请者大多数是华人或者亚裔。”Andy Toy介绍说。

“Although there is no restriction on the ethnicity of applicants in the application form, residing or working in Chinatown is a common criterion. Therefore, the majority of applicants for affordable housing in this area are Chinese or Asian.”as introduced by Andy Toy.安乐楼

On Lok House, 55 senior rental units at 219 North 10th Street,Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly

“一方面,餐馆和零售业依赖于住宅区。零售业有句老话, ‘Retail follows rooftops’,这意味着当商人们决定把他们的商店和餐馆放在哪里时,最关心的是大家都住在哪儿。” Andy用自己所住的地方举例,“我住在费城市中心第22街,当我刚搬到那里的时候,附近一个超市都没有。但是随着越来越多的人搬进来,居民区越来越多,我住的地方有了Trader Joe’s和Whole Foods。我现在希望更多的人能搬进来,这样我们就有更多更好的餐厅可以选择。”

“On one hand, restaurants and retail depend on residential areas. There’s an old saying in retail, ‘Retail follows rooftops.’ This means that when business owners decide where to locate their shops and restaurants, they care about where people live,” Andy explained, using his own neighborhood as an example. “I live on 22nd Street in the Center City of Philadelphia. When I first moved there, there wasn’t even a supermarket nearby. But as more people moved in, the residential area expanded, and now we have Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I hope more people move in, so we have more good restaurants to choose from.”
“On the other hand, keeping more people in Chinatown would also alleviate the hiring difficulties for Chinese business owners. Over the years, many Chinese people have moved out of Chinatown to Northeast or South Philadelphia or even farther suburbs. It takes an hour by train from Northeast Philly to Chinatown, causing many to give up job opportunities in Chinatown. I know many Chinese merchants have to pay for their workers’ parking in Chinatown, otherwise they can’t find employees.”
“如果唐人街没有居民,它变得更像是‘迪斯尼乐园’,人们只是去那里吃饭和娱乐,但是华人社区应该有的生活气息就没有了。” 在谈到安居房对于费城唐人街的重要意义时,Andy Toy深有感触,“作为费城多元文化社区的重要组成部分,如果越来越多的‘原驻民’离开这片土地,唐人街的‘根’就被拔起来,这片街区就没了‘灵魂’。长此以往,费城唐人街将不复存在。”
“If Chinatown has no residents, it becomes more like a place similar to Disneyland. People just go there for dining and entertainment, but it lacks the vibrant community life that a Chinatown should have,” Andy Toy emphasized. “However, for Chinatown, being an essential part of Philadelphia’s multicultural community, if more original residents leave this land, Chinatown’s roots will be lost, and the neighborhood will lose its “soul.” In the long run, Philadelphia’s Chinatown may cease to exist.”


The “Division” and “Stitching” of Chinatown



The double six-lane Vine Street Expressway not only displaced the residents of Chinatown, but more importantly, it acted like a sharp blade, dividing Philadelphia’s Chinatown into two parts – north and south. For decades, this scar has been one of the painful points for Chinatown.割裂

Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly

在半个多世纪后的今天,这道伤疤有望被缝合。一项正在进行的计划,将把割裂的费城唐人街重新连接在一起,万安高速路为唐人街带来的“困扰”也有望一揽子解决。在2022年起,Caroline Aung开始在PCDC担任社区规划师, 她主要参与的就是“缝合华埠”项目。

More than 50 years later, an ongoing plan holds the promise of reconnecting the divided Philadelphia Chinatown. The challenges brought by the Vine Street Expressway to Chinatown are expected to be comprehensively addressed by the Chinatown Stitch. Starting in 2022, Caroline Aung began working as a community planner at PCDC, and she has been actively involved in the Chinatown Stitch project.传单

The flyer of Philadelphia Chinatown Meeting Opposing the Construction of Vine Street Expressway in 1973
Excerpt from the article '150 Years of Chinatown



In simple terms, this project aims to add a cap over the Vine Street Expressway between 10th and 13th Streets. The cap will be ground-level and act as a roof over the busy expressway. Not only will this initiative reconnect Chinatown, which was severed by the expressway, but the public space that it creates in turn can also be developed into a green area and activity venue for residents.
“你知道,每天有超过十万辆汽车通过万安高速公路,这不仅造成了大量的噪音和污染,损害了唐人街居民的健康,而且在本地车道上行驶的车辆,因为车速过快,也经常发生撞人的交通事故。许多老年人和年轻人每天都会穿过几条车道,去上学、去地铁站、去餐馆和买菜,因此安全是我们的首要任务之一。”Caroline Aung在接受采访时表示。“从另一方面讲,唐人街是费城唯一没有公共绿地的街区之一。公共绿地和公共空间关系到唐人街居民的福祉,也是保持社区社会凝聚力的一个重要方面。大家需要这样一个地方。”
“You know, there are over 100,000 cars passing through Vine Street Expressway every day. It not only causes a lot of noise and pollution, harming the health of Chinatown residents, but also vehicles traveling on the local lanes often result in accidents due to excessive speed. Many elderly and young people cross these lanes every day to go to school, the train station, the grocery store, and restaurants. Therefore, safety is one of our top priorities,” stated Caroline Aung during an interview. “On the other hand, Chinatown is one of the few areas in Philadelphia without public green space. Public spaces are related to the well-being of Chinatown residents and are also crucial for maintaining community cohesion. We need such a place.”Caroline Aung

Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly

2023年,费城华埠发展会接连向公众发出了两份有关费城唐人街“加盖工程”的调查问卷。很多人第一次知道了这个“缝合”华埠的大工程。Caroline Aung在接受采访时谈到,“在第一份调查收集中,我们收到了来自全费城和唐人街的1000多份回复。值得注意的是,大家总体上支持该项目,认为这个项目非常重要,有助于给唐人街疗伤。”

In 2023, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) issued two surveys to the public regarding the “Cap Project” in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Many people became aware of this significant project that aims to stitch Chinatown back together. Caroline Aung worked on this public engagement campaign and recounted: “In the first survey, we received over 1,000 responses from across Philadelphia and Chinatown. It is noteworthy that people overall support the project and believe it is crucial for healing the trauma Chinatown endured from unjust urban planning decisions.”
“We conducted the second survey in the fall of 2023. The focus of this survey was to gauge public interest on three different design concepts. The first design concept involves covering the area that connects two half-blocks, primarily with green space. The second design proposes connecting all five blocks of Chinatown, although this would come at a significantly higher cost. The third design integrates the design of the cap with the potential development of the surrounding buildings.”
Caroline was delighted to see that the survey received widespread attention and responses. “Through the survey and public workshops, we found that the first concept was the most popular because it would provide a significant amount of green space, require the least construction time, and have the least impact on the community. Additionally, it is the most cost-effective option.” The vision of a green community park spanning Vine Street Expressway seemed to clarify many things.效果图

图片来源:The Chinatown Stitch Vision Report
An illustration of the first concept
Photo Credit to The Chinatown Stitch Vision Report

“自20世纪90年代以来,作为PCDC的社区计划之一,缝合唐人街只是一个想法和愿景。之后,在PCDC的倡导下,2003年至2004年,在高速路上加盖的想法正式被提出。”PCDC在2017年又进一步制定了一个邻里计划,探讨了在高速路上加盖的可行性,但是这项耗资巨大的工程只能停留在纸面上,直到获得联邦政府资金的支持。Caroline Aung在接受采访时说,“现在的不同之处在于我们得到了联邦政府的支持和资助,使该项目成为可能。所这个项目耗资巨大,只有在得到城市和联邦资金的支持下,我们才能真正做到。”

“Since the 1990s, the idea of stitching Chinatown has been a vision as part of PCDC’s neighborhood plan. Subsequently, under PCDC’s advocacy, the concept of capping the expressway was officially proposed from 2003 to 2004.”, said Caroline Aung. PCDC further developed a neighborhood plan in 2017 to explore the feasibility of capping the expressway. However, this financially demanding project remained on paper until it received support from the federal government. “The key difference now is that we have actual federal support and funding, making this project a reality. It’s a massive undertaking, and only with the support of city and federal funds can we truly accomplish it.”
“我在得克萨斯州长大,居住的地方没有唐人街,也没有非常强大的亚裔美国人社群。所以找到唐人街这样的地方对我个人来说非常重要,费城唐人街给了我更强烈的身份认同感。”虽然Caroline Aung并不在费城唐人街长大,但是在参与项目的过程中,她深深被激励。“虽然充满挑战,但是现在有机会把缝合唐人街的梦想变成现实,这是千载难逢的机会。”
“I grew up in Texas, where there was no Chinatown, and there wasn’t a very strong Asian American community. So finding places like Chinatown is very important to me personally, and Chinatown in Philadelphia has given me a much stronger sense of identity.” Although Caroline Aung did not grow up in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, she has been deeply inspired during her involvement in the project. “Despite the challenges, we feel that now we have the opportunity to turn the dream of stitching Chinatown back together into reality. This is a rare opportunity, and everyone is very excited about it.”Caroline Aung2

Photo Credit to Caroline Aung


“At a deeper level, this project is a correction of a historical mistake against Chinatown. The project has drawn attention to the unfairness that Chinatown has faced in its development. More people are starting to understand that Philadelphia’s Chinatown has experienced numerous challenges, yet it remains resilient. Through decades of struggle and effort, Chinatown ensures its prosperity for generations to come.”
On March 11th 2024, U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Representatives Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans, along with Philadelphia City Mayor Cherelle Parker and John Chin, Executive Director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, jointly announced the historic step forward for the “Chinatown Stitching Plan,” securing a federal allocation of $159 million to reconnect Philadelphia Chinatown.


“Chinatown, a better future with proper planning!”


罗亚丹有着多重身份,他是一名景观设计师和宾大教师,他也是一个把家安在费城的华人。“对于我来说,费城唐人街是‘home away from home’。我和家人每周末都会去找个饭馆吃,生记啊,兰州拉面啊,我两个孩子特别喜欢。吃完就购物,在街上听到各种方言,感觉很亲切;而且我们对每家奶茶店都非常熟悉,哪家比较正宗,哪家口味稍甜,都知道。”

Yadan Luo has multiple identities – he is a landscape architect, a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese resident in Philadelphia. “For me, Philadelphia’s Chinatown is home away from home. We go there every weekend, eat at restaurants like Sang Kee and Lan Zhou Noodle, which my two kids really love. After eating, we go shopping, and hearing various dialects on the street feels very familiar. We are also very familiar with each bubble tea shop, such as knowing which one is more authentic or has a slightly sweeter taste.”
Yadan Luo came to Philadelphia in 2011, and after graduating from UPenn with a Masters in Landscape Architecture, he stayed in Philadelphia with his wife and children. Chinatown became an emotional bond between him and his hometown. The bustling atmosphere in Chinatown deeply impressed him as a  designer who studies cities and communities. “From a professional perspective, the most valuable aspect of Philadelphia’s Chinatown is its vibrancy. It’s lively everywhere, and the popularity is particularly strong. In a big city, such a hot spot is very precious. Even more rare is that during the 150 years of development in Chinatown, it basically grew in a spontaneous and ‘wild’ way. Achieving the current scale and popularity, building such a successful community, there are many things that the entire Philadelphia, and even other cities, can learn from.”
From the perspective of a designer, Yadan Luo also noticed the issues in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. “Every time I go to those nostalgic cake shops in Chinatown, I see many elderly people chatting at the tea seats in the shop. It’s great that the businesses provide them with a space, but I also think it’s a kind of sadness because our elderly people, our children don’t have any other places to go, a public space that belongs to them.”Yadan Luo

Yadan Luo in Philadelphia Railway Park
Photo credit to Metro Chinese Weekly

公共空间对一个城市或者对一个社区特别重要,但是罗亚丹也深知,因为价格昂贵,并不是所有社区都能享受到优秀的景观设计师或好的设计团队提供的设计服务。2021年罗亚丹成立了自己的设计事务所YH lab,并专注于两个目标:一是做公共项目,二是支持少数族裔社区发展。

Yadan Luo feels that public space is particularly important for the entire city or community. However, due to the high cost, not all communities can enjoy the design services provided by excellent landscape designers or professional  design teams. In 2021, he established a design firm called YH lab with two main goals: to undertake public projects and support the development of minority communities.
“We are preparing to reevaluate the entire spatial relationships in Chinatown, combing through streets and open spaces. Whether it’s pocket parks or larger parks, we are exploring the possibility of providing new public spaces.” The idea of creating public spaces in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, as proposed by Yadan Luo, aligns with the green space project in relation to the Vine Street Expressway. His design company also participated in the bid and proposed the concept of the “Panda Park”.Panda Park

Precedent Image of Panda Park
Photo Credit to Yadan Luo


“Panda Park is not only a cultural display and landmark for photo opportunities but it also has a more significant meaning. It serves as the gateway to Chinatown. In terms of the long-term development of Philadelphia’s Chinatown, transforming this public space after covering the expressway into a new entrance can facilitate the northward development of Chinatown. By utilizing the land in North Chinatown, we can unite the severed Chinatown and create more room for future development.”
Like many others concerned about Philadelphia’s Chinatown and the Asian community, Yadan Luo is apprehensive about the new stadium for the 76ers. “We are currently opposing the new stadium for the 76ers, and everyone is discussing this issue around the stadium itself—whether it can be built, whether it benefits or harms the community. However, I think we should think more from the perspective of the future development of Chinatown: Taking the initiative and making the overall planning of Chinatown a major topic for discussion. Discussing these issues is the healthiest way for the development of our entire community.”
“The one thing I most want to do is to study the overall planning of Philadelphia’s Chinatown. I believe we should give Chinatown a new positioning by creating a gathering place for East Asian and diverse cultures within it.” As for the future of Chinatown, Yadan Luo envisions it from a designer’s perspective. “ Emerging industries related to Asian culture, such as art workshops, media workstations, and high-tech enterprises, when integrated into the existing structure, will make Chinatown more vibrant and become an exemplar of a multicultural community in Philadelphia.”
Looking back at the past 150 years, Philadelphia’s Chinatown has a wealth of history. Through the development of projects that benefit the community, hopefully more people can move into affordable housing in Chinatown. Eventually, everyone may explore the joys of life in the green spaces and gardens on the “cap” of the Vine Street Expressway. When this comes to fruition, the journalist Jasen Lo can add a new page to his article, documenting a brighter future for Philadelphia’s Chinatown!


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