One thing leads to another, Chi­na­town de­vel­op­ment has been snow­balling, get­ting big­ger and big­ger in less than 30 years.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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