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Chinatown Square

Chinatown Square is a two-story outdoor mall located in Chinatown, a mile north of the Loop (the main Chinatown Street). On 45 acres of reclaimed railroad ground, Chinatown Square has restaurants, stores, boutiques, banks, clinics, beauty salons, and offices. This outdoor mall is the largest Chinese mall west of San Francisco. The mall has twelve Xiamen, China, zodiac animal statues in the middle. The mall also has twin pagodas. The mall opened in 1993 as a result of Chinese protests demanding more property from Chicago. Construction of the Dan Ryan and Stevenson Expressways limited Chinatown's land area in the 1960s. This led to overcrowding and hampered further expansion. In the 1980s, a big railroad yard stood where Chinatown Square now stands. Its transformation into Chinatown Square allowed for much-needed commercial and residential expansion. Along the Chicago River, new parks were built. The Chinese American Development Corporation built Chinatown Square. On March 30, 1984, the Chinese American Development Corporation (CADC) was created to buy and develop the 32-acre land. Since its inception, Chinatown Square construction has experienced various challenges. The community had to compete with a bid to relocate the USPS Main Office from Congress Parkway to the property. The Chinese American Civic Council galvanized community opposition to the USPS intentions to develop Chinatown. Nancy Chen, then Chief of Staff to Illinois Senator Paul Simon (D), petitioned the Senator who intervened on behalf of the Chinese community. His parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China, and he felt a strong bond with the Chinese. The development corporation compensated for environmental cleaning when it was revealed. Former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington secured financing for the site purchase. The City of Chicago lent CADC $4–6 million at a low interest rate. The City of Chicago's contact to CADC was Valerie Jarrett, a current Obama adviser. The City of Chicago aided the project by employing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to build necessary infrastructure. Governor Jim Edgar aided the initiative by presenting a $1 million grant to the Chinese American Development Fund (CADF) (3). The CADF was created to create and maintain a Chinese American Museum in the former commissary.

The state also subsidized the site's affordable housing. After the business portion was completed in 1993, the residential portion began. These were among the site's original residential buildings. The project failed after erecting the first 24 residential units north of China Place due to the recession and weak absorption rate. The remaining residential segment will be developed with Richland Realty. The Chinese American Service League built a senior housing project and its own main headquarters on Tan Court after selling land. Walgreens bought another plot on Cermak and Princeton. The mall's previous expansion, in 2007, removed the bankrupt Oriental Foods, a massive supermarket that served as an East Side anchor. July brought specialty shops and a bank. In 1991, the Chicago Park District presented plans for a huge riverfront park near Chinatown Square. Phase 1 was the "Passive" park, now Ping Tom Memorial Park. Eleven acres of undeveloped land remain, and plans for more enhancements are underway.

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