Chinatown, Las Vegas

Chinatown, Las Vegas

The Chinatown of Las Vegas, Nevada (Chinese: 拉斯維加斯中國城 (pinyin: Lāsīwéijiāsī Zhōngguóchéng) 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 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). Although called "Chinatown", the many Asian influences other than Chinese might make that name a misnomer, with the commercial area having a character perhaps better described as an Asian District.

Spring Mountain Road was once a run-down corridor with strip clubs, but Chinatown Plaza and other adjacent power centers have emerged as an archetypal example of immigrants taking an old neighborhood given up for dead by the previous residents and reviving it with major investments as a bustling center of ethnic minority commerce.


Boundaries and makeup

Chinatown is located west of the Las Vegas Strip, 1.4 miles (2.3 km) from Las Vegas Blvd. where the Fashion Show Mall, Treasure Island, Wynn, and The Venetian casinos are located. Spring Mountain Road is the main street. Also comprising Chinatown are a number of Filipino, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese American businesses serving a pan-Asian community. Besides serving the local population and tourists, according to a 2004 Wall Street Journal article, Chinatown was especially conceived as an area to offer value authentic Chinese cuisine for inbound Chinese-speaking tourists coming from Southern California and East Asia.

Chinatown is one of the few places where one can find authentic Chinese and Asian ethnic cuisines, such as Hong Kong-style roast duck, won ton noodles, Vietnamese pho noodle soup, Japanese sushi, or Taiwanese boba tea. The popularity of 99 Ranch Market, an Asian supermarket where live fresh seafood or bottles of authentic oyster sauce, and other imported Asian-branded foodstuffs can be purchased, has been featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The aesthetic of the Las Vegas Chinatown bears a strong resemblance to the suburban "Chinatowns" found in Southern California and Silicon Valley (and even as far away as Houston, Texas), in the form of sprawl with large parking lots. For example, in contrast to many urban U.S. Chinatowns — where unforeseen growth forced working class immigrants to congregate, live and work in a small area — the expansive, planned real estate for this Chinatown is modeled upon those in the Los Angeles suburbs of Monterey Park, California and San Gabriel, California, both anchored by shopping centers and supermarkets (99 Ranch Market and Shun Fat Supermarket). Before the conception of Chinatown Plaza and nearby malls, some Las Vegas residences had to travel as far as 200 mi (320 km) to the nearest "suburban Chinatown" in Monterey Park to shop for authentic Asian groceries. To cater to the Chinese-speaking locals and tourists, entrepreneur James Chen spearheaded a drive in Las Vegas. There are now several businesses in Chinatown that are extensions of prominent Southern California businesses, including Asian supermarket chains, restaurants, bakery, travel agents and the like.

It is generally unlike the older Chinatowns throughout the country; the Las Vegas Chinatown takes the form of strip malls with a diverse range of restaurants. The suburban-style 99 Ranch Market chain is a key anchor to the area, with other Southern California-based chain businesses such as the Sam Woo Restaurant (serving Cantonese cuisine), 168 Shanghai Restaurant (serving Shanghai and Taiwanese cuisine), Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant (serving Cantonese cuisine and dim sum), and Kim Tar Restaurant (serving Teochew cuisine). There is also a Chinese noodle and dumpling restaurant serving Shanghai-style noodles, dumplings, spring onion pancakes and tofu dishes. Cantonese seafood restaurants are also present, as well as the Vietnamese sandwich banh mi. Vietnamese restaurants selling pho include Pho Vietnam and Pho Kim Long. The New York City-based Penang Restaurant offers Malaysian cuisine.

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 Rd. and Rainbow Blvd. 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 (40,000 m2).[1] 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

Chinatown Plaza

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. This shopping center includes a branch of the Lollicup tea beverage franchise, a Taiwanese American company originally from Southern California.

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.

Asian demographics of Las Vegas

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[2] . Almost half of the City of Las Vegas 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).


External links

Further reading

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