The Chinese Cultural Center at 44th and Van Buren Streets in Phoenix may be the closest thing the Phoenix metropolitan area has to a Chinatown. But a recent change in ownership has caused concern in the Valley’s Chinese-American and other Asian communities.

News of proposed changes to the site have spread in community meetings and an online petition

On Sunday, about 250 protesters lined the center to call for the preservation of the business complex and garden near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The center opened in the late 1990s as a business venture by COFCO, a Chinese state-owned company. It houses a grocery store, restaurants, small businesses and many empty storefronts.

A new owner, a new vision

True North Companies, an Arizona-based private equity firm, purchased the site in June under an Limited Liability Corporation.

True North Companies Chief Executive Officer David Tedesco said the company plans to use the site as a corporate headquarters. Part of the center would be used for other tenants, he said. 

Whether it retains its ties to the Asian communities remains to be seen.

The redevelopment won’t include demolition, but will modernize the center, Tedesco said. The company intends to keep the garden or could donate the items to be moved elsewhere, based on community outreach. 

A recent email sparked fear among local Chinese organizations when an architect told them the site’s new owner plans to redevelop the center’s Asian-inspired tile roofs and red columnsbuilt with materials imported from China.He asked if any groups were interested in moving the ornate pagodas and statues at the garden to another site. 

‘This needs to be preserved’

Sunday’s protest was to ask that the Chinese Cultural Center remain intact.

People chanted “Save our garden” and held signs reading “Save Arizona history.”

“It’s for us, for our children,” said Andy Zhang, vice president of the Arizona Asian Alliance. “This needs to be preserved.” 

Protesters said they were unclear on the proposal and speculated on the outcome. People are afraid the garden will be torn down, Councilman Michael Nowakowski said at the event.

“I think there’s a lot of questions,” he said.

Nowakowski said he plans to organize a meeting with the owner. He called the center’s craftsmanship a “piece of China” in the desert.

“You can’t just build another one,” Nowakowski said. “It’s a jewel for the city of Phoenix.”


Is a gondola ride in the Grand Canyon’s future? Project stirs concerns about threats to cultural, natural resources

Phoenix civil-rights activists host peace vigil following violence in Charlottesville

Tucson proud to unveil rainbow-painted crosswalks

Read or Share this story: