Trading Chinatown for Costco: The Future of Commercial Gentrification on St. Louis’ Olive Boulevard
America loves to enjoy Chinese culture, embracing popular items like boba tea, dim sum brunches, and Bruce Lee but as history has proven time and time again, it does not actually care much for the Chinese people. From blatantly racist laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the recent rush of Sinophobia brought on by the labeling of COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” we have been subject to harassment and discrimination for centuries. Similarly, the relationship between St. Louis’ Chinese community and its government has been fraught for decades, with the 1966 destruction of the original St Louis Chinatown (Ling 85), “Hop Alley,” displacing hundreds of Chinese immigrants in order to make way for Busch Stadium’s parking lot. In the past three years residents of the area have witnessed history tragically repeating itself, with city officials announcing in 2018 their plan to construct a massive $189 million redevelopment project on Olive Boulevard, an area that many consider to be St. Louis’ surrogate Chinatown (Kukuljan, np). Approved in March by University City’s council of seven representatives, none of whom are Asian, the project repeats the same patterns of gentrification that have antagonized the Chinese community for decades. Specifically, the Olive controversy can be viewed as a test case for the two opposing concepts of commercial gentrification and cultural community, the consequences of which this paper will examine.
Zhang, Jade, "Trading Chinatown for Costco: The Future of Commercial Gentrification on St. Louis’ Olive Boulevard" (2022). Dean James E. McLeod Freshman Writing Prize. 17.