News / Edmonton

Future of Edmonton's Harbin Gate uncertain

Members of Chinese community have doubts about plans to relocate the gate, which is coming down to make way for the Valley Line LRT.

The Harbin Gate marks the entrance to Chinatown in Edmonton.

Kevin Tuong / Metro Order this photo

The Harbin Gate marks the entrance to Chinatown in Edmonton.

Some members of Edmonton’s Chinese community have doubts about the future of the Harbin Gate.

The gate, which marks the entrance to Chinatown at 102 Avenue and 97 Street, will be removed in the coming weeks to make way for the Valley Line LRT.

A plan is in place to carefully remove the gate and resurrect it at another location in the future, but Chinese Benevolent Association chair Michael Lee is not entirely confident that will happen.

“The contractor seems to think that it can be done. But we realize for masonry work like that, having to take it apart sometimes you lose pieces that cannot be replaced, and you cannot get matching pieces to put back on,” Lee said.

“We are cautiously optimistic, but not totally convinced that it will definitely be accomplished. We just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that what they promised will come in without complications.”

Harbin, Edmonton’s sister city in China, donated materials and construction expertise for the gate three decades ago, and Lee said it’s a significant symbol of friendship between the two cities.

The pieces of the gate will go into a city storage facility until a decision is made on where to resurrect it.

But Chinatown Business Association Executive Director Ratan Lawrence worries that if a new location can’t be found now, it might not be found in the future either.

“I am very concerned about that. When it’s out of sight it's out of mind, this is my concern. It’s such a beautiful gate and there’s lots of meaning,” Lawrence said.

“If they cannot find a location now, maybe in the future they still cannot find a location.”

TransEd has been contracted to build the LRT and will be in charge of removing the gate. Preliminary work is set to start next week, but the gate won’t come down until late March or early April.

Company spokesperson Sue Heuman said the lions and other decorative pieces will be removed first, and the rest of the gate will be cut into three pieces and then moved to a city storage yard.

“We are being very careful with it,” Heuman said. “We do understand the significance of the gate, so our crews are going to be as careful as they can with it.”

Chinatown project manager Claudia Wong-Rusnak said the city is working closely with the benevolent association and there is a location in mind but a feasibility study has not been conducted yet.

The city will bring experts in from Harbin before doing an assessment.

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The Harbin Gate was built in 1987 with materials gifted from Edmonton’s sister city in northeast China. Many components are handcrafted, including two sculpted lions at the base. A watercolour painting of the gate was featured on a Canada Post commemorative stamp in 2013.

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