Detroit Evening Report: Demolition of old Chinatown building in Detroit sparks outcry

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Rising Voices co-executive director Jasmine Rivera speaks at an event on July 31, 2023, in Detroit, Mich.

Rising Voices co-Executive Director Jasmine Rivera speaks at an event on July 31, 2023, in Detroit, Mich.

Members of the Asian American community in Metro Detroit came together Monday to condemn the demolition of the former site of the Chinese Merchants Association.

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The building is a part of Detroit’s Historic Chinatown around Cass Ave. and Peterborough St.

The move comes after the Detroit City Council passed a resolution last week to halt demolitions for a month while it waited on a report to designate the area as a historic site.

However, the Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) said in a legal notice that the council had no grounds to halt the demolition. It directed Olympia Development of Michigan — part of the Ilitch family-owned business — to demolish the building last weekend.

American Citizens for Justice President Roland Hwang, whose organization was formed after the murder of Vincent Chin in 1983, says the community is grieving the loss of the historical space, which was central to the growth of Detroit’s Asian American population.

“Is there a win-win situation that can arise from the ashes, so to speak, to the extent that we have an opportunity with several of us here…to acknowledge the history of Chinatown,” Hwang asks.

Hwang spoke against the backdrop of continuing demolition at the site — which is slated to become a parking lot.

He says people deserve a community center in Chinatown and the community members want to see their history preserved.

More headlines for July 31, 2023:

  • Detroit City Councilmember Mary Waters proposes second option for renaming Hart Plaza
  • Detroit’s 36th District Court reinstates virtual hearings this week

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.