Phoenix Council Denies Chinese Cultural Center Preservation Petition

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 6:57am
Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 9:38am

(Photo by Christina Estes – KJZZ)
The Chinese United Association of Phoenix asked the city council to take action to ensure the long-term preservation of the Chinese Cultural Center.

After hours of passionate public comment, the Phoenix City Council rejected a citizen’s petition to ensure the long-term preservation of the former Chinese Cultural Center.

Since it involves private property, the city can’t stop the new owner from making certain changes, but leaders are trying to find a path to preservation.

Because the center located near 44th and Van Buren streets is just 20 years old, it doesn’t automatically qualify for historic status, but there could be another way to get the city to take action. And, community groups are willing to pay for it.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the city approved a survey, to be paid for by outside groups, that could determine whether the property qualifies for preservation based on exceptional importance. It would include things like cultural significance, unique materials and architecture.

Elizabeth Mann recounted a trip to China in the late '90s with two city employees who helped seal the deal with a state-owned Chinese company to build the center, “And to convince the United States, the embassy in China, to get a special visa for 30 master crafts persons to come here and install this garden.”

The new owner plans to use the site to establish a new headquarters and campus for True North Companies, a private equity firm. The owner, 668 North, LLC, has suggested a downtown park is a better location for a Chinese Cultural Center and offered to preserve sculptures, statues and other items until they can be relocated.

But, Frank Zhang told council members that relocation would be harmful, especially when it comes to certain pieces.

“All the wood pieces are interlocked, there are no nails used for the whole structure,” he said. “Any attempt to move or relocate such architecture or such structure is to destroy it, is to demolish it. Because when you take it apart, you break it, you cannot put it back.

Mayor Greg Stanton said at least one private offer to buy the property has been submitted and the Chinese United Association said it is working on an offer.

Before Tuesday’s council meeting, 668 North, LLC announced it had contributed $100,000 to the Hance Park Coalition as a way to assist a new Chinese Cultural Center in Hance Park. In a written statement, the company also said the center has struggled in recent years with numerous vacancies.

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