Houston's SW Chinatown

Updated: 2015-01-23 10:59

By May Zhou(China Daily USA)

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Reach beyond Chinatown

In 2000 Sharpstown Redevelopment Authority (SRA) was sanctioned by the city, a joint effort by Chinatown and mainstream developers. Li served on its board from 2000-2011.

Li worked at the City of Houston Planning Commission for a few years and learned first hand that local development would fare better by working with government and other community groups. Through SRA, the city gives back a portion of increased tax revenue from property appreciation to the local community for further development.

With funds from the city to SRA, Li and other business people successfully lobbied the city to update the main road of Chinatown Bellaire.

"The road reconstruction cost $30 million. The Chinatown section of Bellaire has never been redone for 30 years. By revamping the road, we make Chinatown more beautiful to attract more investment and raise its property value," Li said.

In 2005, Li and other local business people successfully lobbied the Texas Legislature to establish the Greater Sharpstown Management District (GSMD), a 10-square-mile government entity aimed at enhancing the physical, social, and economic well being of the Sharpstown community with funds consisting of small fees collected from all businesses. Roughly 30 percent is spent on security and 30 percent on beautification. Li serves as chairman of the board of directors.

"I think now Houston's SW Chinatown has entered the fourth phase of development with the opening of direct flights between Beijing and Houston. This makes Houston a gateway to China mainland and brings in more new immigrants from there," Li said.

Air China started direct Houston-Beijing service in July 2013, initially four flights a week. However, higher than expected demand soon prompted the carrier to expand service to a daily basis in March 2014.

Li said that investment from the Chinese mainland has started to come in but has not taken shape in Chinatown yet.

"Cities like New York, San Francisco are fully developed and have little space to expand. However, Houston still has room to grow; there is opportunity for them to be pioneers. Also, with a strong local economy, we don't necessarily need foreign funds for development," he said.

Contact the writer at mayzhou@chinadailyusa.com

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