One thing leads to another, Chinatown development has been snowballing, getting bigger and bigger in less than 30 years.”
chairman, The Asian American Business Council nobody wants to sell. The oil bust attracted a lot of the investors from LA and New York to Houston’s Chinatown.”
According to Qin, during the economic recession in the late 1980s to the early 1990s, Chinese investors bought numerous apartment complexes next to the three shopping centers. The ownership of Happy Village, Lousville, Hamilton and SunBlossom Garden switched to Chinese investors one after another. By Li’s account, today over 6,000 apartments are owned by Chinese within the Golden Zone. Another milestone
In Li’s opinion, SW Chinatown’s second milestone came with the construction of the Hong Kong City Mall (HKCM) on Bellaire west of Beltway 8 in the International District.
Developed by Chinese immigrant Hai Du Duong from Vietnam, HKCM was completed and opened in the fall of 1999 with the gigantic Hong Kong Food Market, a two-story banquet hall restaurant, a lotus pond and over 100 retail stores, cafes, restaurants and services, most of which are connected to each other indoors. Fifteen years later, HKCM still boasts one of the largest shopping centers in Chinatown.
During this period, the Southern News Group media building and the International Trade Center were built on the north side of Bellaire across from HKCM. “These represent the expansion of SW Chinatown beyond Beltway 8 and the Chinatown main drag of Bellaire,” said Li.
However, it’s the third phase of development started in the new millennium that pushed Chinatown to a new high, according to Li.
In the first decade of the 21st century, rapid development occurred inside Beltway 8. First, Shi Shaoli, an immigrant from the Chinese mainland, developed Sterling Plaza in the early 2000s next to the Wells Fargo branch. She also developed a Ming Dynasty style townhome complex to the north of Sterling Plaza.
Also, Li developed Corporate Office Plaza south of Bellaire. Across from Sterling Plaza; Michael Chien and David Wu developed Dun Huang Plaza — the largest commercial condominium in Chinatown with covered parking, services, retails and professional offices.
To top it all, American First National Bank (AFNB) Building, a 12-story class-A office building, sprang up next to Dun Huang Plaza in 2007, making it the highest and most visible landmark in SW Chinatown. Most valuable real estate
AFIB founder Henry Wu wanted to give his bank room to expand and to give SW Chinatown a better image, and he succeeded on both accounts. Li said: “Today, this building is the most valuable real estate piece in Chinatown with a taxable appraisal value of $1 billion.”
David Tai, executive president of East West Bank and co-founder of the former Metro Bank, said that the numerous Chinese owned banks have played important roles in the development of Chinatown.
According to Tai, the first major lender was the Asian American Bank established in 1983 by older generation Chinese immigrants. It later became Concord Bank and was merged with Atlanta’s Summit National Bank in 2006.
In 1985, a group of Taiwanese Chinese formed the Texas First National Bank (now Golden Bank), followed by the formation of the Metro Bank in 1987, both headquartered in SW Chinatown.
With Chinatown’s development, more banks opened up: First Intentional, United Central, Southwestern National and American First National.
Major Chinese banks from California also came to Houston. Cathay Bank opened its local office as early as 1999. East West Bank started a local branch in 2004 and eventually