Chinatown

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Chinatown is a community in southwestern Houston, Texas, United States. It is roughly bounded by Fondren, Beechnut, State Highway 6, and Westpark, west of Bellaire in the Alief area. The naming of the new Chinatown is disputed, as various ethnic groups live within the community. Portions of Chinatown lie within the Greater Sharpstown, International, and Westchase management districts.

There is another Chinatown called “Old Chinatown” located within the East Downtown Houston district near the George R. Brown Convention Center.

History

The first businesses of the new Houston Chinatown opened in 1983. In the 1980s increasing numbers of Chinese were living in Southwest Houston and Fort Bend County and those residents were further away from the old Chinatown in what is now East Downtown. The new Chinatown began to expand in the 1990s when Houston-area Asian American entrepreneurs moved their businesses from older neighborhoods, especially the “Old Chinatown” on the eastern end of Downtown Houston (in the process of redevelopment), in a search for more inexpensive properties and lower crime rates (at the time).

In 2005 Christy Chang, a tour operator who operated tours into Chinatown, said “This area is not just Chinatown anymore. If anything, it’s Asia Town” due to the presence of various ethnic groups that developed in the community. The Asian American Business Council estimated that between 2004 and 2008 the land values along Bellaire Boulevard in Chinatown increased between 25 and 50 percent. In 2008 the group estimated that 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) in construction would appear in the following two-year period. The group estimated that the construction would include high end condominiums. Lisa Gray of the Houston Chronicle stated that the development of the remaining acreage would likely cause rents to increase and that, compared to many other Chinatowns in the United States, the Houston Chinatown is still relatively inexpensive.

In 2008 the Asian American Business Council placed a contest to design a “landmark monument” to be placed on Bellaire Boulevard between Beltway 8 and Gessner Road in order to increase visibility among Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans and to beautify the area.

Cityscape

A retail center in Chinatown in southwest Houston, where restaurants serving authentic Chinese food are located.

The Bellaire Chinatown is about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Downtown Houston. It is over 6 square miles (16 km2), making it among the largest automobile-centric Chinatowns in the United States.The Chinatown, located on a mostly treeless plain, is, according to Lori Rodriguez of the Houston Chronicle, roughly bounded by Fondren, Beechnut, State Highway 6, and Westpark, west of Bellaire. The half of the Rodriguez definition of Chinatown inside Beltway 8 is within the Greater Sharpstown district. The Greater Sharpstown Management District defines Chinatown within its borders as being a 2.37-square-mile (6.1 km2) area bounded roughly by Beltway 8, the Westpark Tollway, Beechnut, and Redding. Much of western Chinatown under the Rodriguez definition lies within the International Management District. A portion of the Rodriguez definition of Chinatown lies within the Westchase district. The community is between Westchase and the City of Sugar Land. Katharine Shilcutt of the Houston Press said that Chinatown was “straddling Beltway 8 on the southwest side like an entire city unto itself.

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