Houston’s Chinatown is located in the city’s southwestern quadrant. It’s common to find family-run restaurants in Chinatown that serve anything from pho and dim sum to curries. Discount stores on Harwin Drive sell gadgets, clothing, and jewelry, while the massive Hong Kong Food Market focuses on seafood and Asian products. The tai chi court and running path at Arthur Storey Park are two of the park’s most popular features. Tours of Asian culture are offered by the Chinese Community Center.
In 1983, a small group of entrepreneurs started a shop in what would become Houston’s new Chinatown. The 1980s saw a large influx of Chinese to Southwest Houston and Fort Bend County, areas that were geographically removed from the historic Chinatown in present-day East Downtown. The 120,000-square-foot Dynasty Plaza was developed in 1986 and 1987 by a Singaporean friend of Diho Supermarket operator Tsang Dat Wong, who had been persuaded to build in Houston by Tsang Dat Wong. Due to the economic downturn, developers were able to purchase land at bargain prices in the hopes of making a profit in the future. Chinatown census tracts had a decline in income and property prices from the 1980s through the 2000s.
In the 1990s, the area now known as “New Chinatown” began to grow as Asian American business owners in the Houston area relocated their operations from more expensive areas, particularly the “Old Chinatown” at the eastern end of Downtown Houston, in search of cheaper real estate and safer environments. A Vietnamese immigrant named Hai Du Duong opened Hong Kong City Mall in 1999. Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle used the term “westward shift for Chinatown” to characterize the phenomenon in 2004.
Since most of Chinatown is privately owned, you won’t find many open spaces there. When compared to the East Downtown Chinatown, which was located in a more condensed area, the new Chinatown is more spread out because it is situated within a residential area of single-family houses and apartments. The majority of the nearby neighborhoods and office complexes were constructed after 1990.
A variety of stores, shops, restaurants, and bakeries can be found in the new Chinatown. You’ll notice that the street names and numbers are written in Chinese characters. According to Knapp and Vojnovic, Hong Kong City Mall is the “symbolic hub” and “visual center” because that is where the paifang can be found. The Greater Sharpstown Management District estimates that there are 29,993 residents in the area of Chinatown contained within the district’s borders as of 2012. This Chinatown caters primarily to middle-class consumers.
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