Edmonton's Chinatown community looking forward to new Harbin Gate

Construction crews move Harbin Gate in Edmonton's Chinatown to make room for Valley Line LRT construction. Now Chinatown will get a brand new Harbin Gate after councillors approved $6 million in the 2023-2026 capital budget.  (Rod Maldaner/CBC - image credit)
Construction crews move Harbin Gate in Edmonton's Chinatown to make room for Valley Line LRT construction. Now Chinatown will get a brand new Harbin Gate after councillors approved $6 million in the 2023-2026 capital budget. (Rod Maldaner/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton's Chinatown community is looking forward to a new Harbin Gate after city council fully funded the return of the landmark in the latest capital budget.

In December, councillors approved $6 million for the planning, design and delivery of a new Harbin Gate in the 2023-26 capital budget.

The new gate will stretch over 97th Street, immediately north of Jasper Avenue.

Hon Leong, chair of the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society, said the community feels really good about the approved funding.

"It was a promise made by council that they fulfilled," Leong told CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.

A spokesperson confirmed the city is working with the City of Harbin — Edmonton's sister city in China — on the design process.

"The expected date of completion has not been finalized, but the gate footings are already in place, and with the funding officially approved, a timeline will soon follow," Erika Nakatsui, a communications adviser for the city, said in an email.

Foundations and landscaping elements for the new gate on 97th Street have already been installed, according to the city's website.

The Chinese Benevolent Association is also involved in the design process. Chair Michael Lee said the association is bringing in experts from Harbin to look at the location for the design.

"We haven't finalized the design because of cost considerations," Lee said.

He said it hasnt been decided yet which parts of the gate would be constructed in Canada, and which parts would be imported from Harbin.

The original gate, which spanned 102nd Avenue just east of 97th Street, was a gift from Edmonton's sister city.

Erected in 1987, it was taken down in November 2017 to make room for the Valley Line LRT and is now in storage.

Leong said the community was disappointed when the decision was made to bring down the gate without a plan for reinstallation.

"There should have been a plan that would have prescribed to the community what was to happening, to ease some of the concerns," he said.

He said the gate is a significant symbol for the Chinese community. When the society did a survey for a new logo to represent Chinatown, Harbin Gate received resounding support.

Leong said the results of the survey were no surprise, since most Chinatowns across Canada are identified with a gate. "You go to Montreal, they have a gate. You go to Vancouver ... any large Chinatown will have a gate," he said.

The new location will also be of historic significance to the Chinese community since it was where Chinatown originally began, Leong said.

"It's where a lot of the earliest businesses and business owners that came and immigrated from China and from Asia landed," he said.