Chinatown, Las Vegas
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|Las Vegas Chinatown|
|— Retail district —|
|City||Spring Valley, Nevada|
|Area code(s)||Area code 702|
The Chinatown in the Las Vegas Valley (Chinese: 拉斯維加斯中國城; pinyin: lā sī wéi jiā sī zhōng guó chéng) is a series of large strip malls with ethnic Chinese and other pan-Asian businesses on Spring Mountain Road, with the original called Chinatown Plaza. The Chinatown area is in Spring Valley, Nevada. The strip mall was conceived by Taiwanese American developer James Chih-Cheng Chen, and opened in 1995. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn officially designated the area as Chinatown in October 1999 and it continues to grow as the Asian population in Las Vegas expands rapidly. The Chinatown area has gained much popularity, receiving national attention in a 2004 article by The Wall Street Journal (See Further Reading below for the specific citation). Huffington Post classifies Las Vegas Chinatown along with Atlanta-Chamblee, Dallas-Richardson, and North Miami Beach as a "modern" styled Chinatown, that contrasts with the historic core Chinatowns like New York and San Francisco. The Chinatown is pan-Asian in nature instead of being completely Chinese according to the previous source. The official website for the Chinatown Plaza indicates that Spring Mountain Road is the general corridor for the neighborhood.
The history of Chinese population in the Las Vegas Valley shows that the Chinese population remained small throughout most of its history. As a result, a Chinatown could only be created with initiative from entrepreneurs that would in essence fabricate a scenario that came naturally in other large cities that have historically important Chinatowns. According to Tsui in her book, Las Vegas's Chinese population boomed starting from the 1960s and by the 1990s, the Chinese population grew to 15,000 with the majority working in the casino industry. Even as the population grew, the "Chinatown experiment" could not rely on the local Chinese population to create it, but relied on a label on the plaza itself before people knew it was "Chinatown". As a saleswoman visiting the Chinatown answered "How do I know this is Chinatown?" Her answer was "Because it says so right on the arch, in Chinese characters (Zhong gwok sing)"
According to Tsui's book, Senator Harry Reid "... ordered a sign to be put up for Chinatown [off Interstate 15]..." but was taken down by the order of the governor of Nevada Bob Miller. In 1996, the Clark County, Nevada designated the area as "Chinatown".
Originally, "Chinatown" was conceived for the purpose of serving Chinese-speaking tourists and businesses visiting Las Vegas from the Southern California area and Asia. At present, the population of Asian Americans in the Las Vegas area (Clark County) is 132,032 and comprise 7.2% of the total population as of the 2005-2009 Census. Almost half of the of Las Vegas metropolitan area Chinese American population - numbering at 2,784 residents - are from Taiwan. Some are also from mainland China and Southeast Asia. There are significant numbers of ethnic Chinese in the city of Las Vegas as well as in the Las Vegas suburbs of Spring Valley and Paradise. Filipinos remain the largest Asian ethnic group of the Las Vegas area, that is, the city itself and surrounding suburbs.
In comparison with the early 1990s when the size of the Chinese population was nominal, Las Vegas now has Chinese-language newspapers and a Chinese American Chamber of Commerce. The Las Vegas Chinese Daily News, based in Chinatown, was founded by an immigrant from Taiwan. Other newspapers, such as conservative-leaning World Journal and liberal-leaning International Daily News, come from the Los Angeles area (specifically from Monterey Park).
The Chinatown (or the Asian business district) extends for 2.5 miles (4.0 km). The western end terminates at Korea Town Plaza at the intersection of Spring Valley Road. and Rainbow Boulvard. Greenland Supermarket is the anchor tenant in Korea Town Plaza, which has 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2) of building space on 10 acres (4.0 ha). The owners of the grocery store in October 2009 estimated that Las Vegas has 200,000 Asian-Americans, of which 30,000 are Korean. The census bureau has previously estimated 128,594 Asian-Americans in their 2006-2008 Community Survey for Clark County. But an additional 127,215 respondents checked the some other race category which may include many people who decline to choose a race with which they most closely identify. Another 10,036 responded Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander and 60,416 responded two or more races. Adding in another 10% growth in county population since that time, the figure of 200,000 may be an underestimate.
Public transportation from the Strip
Public bus route #203 runs at half hour intervals starting from the bus stand next to the Fashion Show Mall near the base of the pedestrian bridge crossing from Treasure Island. Transit time on the bus to the district is from 8 to 18 minutes from the eastern end to western end. The 24-hour pass on The Deuce is also valid on local buses for no extra charge.
Shopping centers and malls
Located on Spring Mountain Road between Valley View Boulevard and Arville Street, Chinatown Plaza (中國城, Mandarin: zhong guo cheng) comprises 85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2) of bustling immigrant commerce, with restaurants offering regional Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine as well as other Asian cuisine (Filipino, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese). The assortment of businesses also includes a book store (selling Chinese language publications), a ginseng shop, a travel agent, a VCD store, a bakery, and an optometrist.
The entrance of the parking lot of Chinatown Plaza is marked by an ornamental traditional Chinese arch (called in Mandarin Chinese paifang), providing an opportunity for photo-taking. There are also statues in front of the mall depicting Xuan Zang and the Monkey King, characters from the epic Journey to the West, a Ming Dynasty-era classic from Chinese literature.
Other shopping centers developed adjacently in recent years by other developers include:
- Pacific Asian Plaza — opened in 2001, the 90,000 sq ft (8,400 m2) Pacific Asian Plaza features grand Japanese accents. Shun Fat Supermarket, locally called SF Supermarket, is the prime anchor of this complex.
- Great China Plaza — opened in 1999
- The Center at Spring Mountain — developed by non-Asian developers and opened in 2002, extended this year to include more businesses.
- Tokyo Plaza — renamed in 2012, home to gastronomical restaurants Raku, Monta, and Gen Mizoguchi's Kabuto.
These Las Vegas shopping centers contain unique architecture that combine traditional Chinese motifs and red gateways with modern-style strip malls found in American suburbia and are located well away from the touristy casino areas. Chinatown is not a residential district as in other Chinatowns and very few live in the immediate vicinity. Nevertheless, it is a central location for a booming Asian origin population in Las Vegas.
During the Chinese New Year, the Chinatown Plaza hosts Las Vegas's annual Asian food festival with lion and dragon dance performances (performed by a local Shaolin group) and Japanese taiko drum performances as well as martial arts demonstrations. There are also stalls offering goods and services oriented around Chinese culture. The Miss Chinatown Las Vegas pageant is held in Chinatown Plaza, where the winner will represent Chinatown.
Similarly, Pacific Asian Plaza is the venue for the Chinese autumnal Moon Festival.
To promote cultural diversity and understanding, field trips to Chinatown Plaza bring students from local elementary schools and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who are interested in learning about Chinese culture.
- "The Best Chinese Probably Isn't In Chinatown".
- "Las Vegas Chinatown".
- "Las Vegas: A Pictorial Celebration".
- Bonnie Tsui. "American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods".
- Census.Gov US Census for Clark County, United States Census, 2005-2009, accessed February 9, 2011.
- "Greenland Supermarket opens at Korea Town".
- Las Vegas Chinatown Plaza
- The Center at Spring Mountain
- Las Vegas Chinatown Guide
- Pacific Asian Plaza
- Chinatown expands borders - Las Vegas Review-Journal article
- http://www.unlv.edu/faculty/gbp/ant427/ant427fm/ - An ethnic studies ethnography project with very descriptive work on Chinatown Plaza from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Plenty of fine pics for good measure.
- For Asians in U.S., Mini-Chinatowns Sprout in Suburbia, Barry Newman, The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2004 (article on development of Las Vegas's Chinatown).
- American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, Bonnie Tsui, 2009 ISBN 978-1-4165-5723-4 Official website