Cộng Đồng Người Việt Lên Tiếng Về Việc Duy Trì Trung Tâm Thương Mại Eden

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Cộng Đồng Người Việt Lên Tiếng Về Việc Duy Trì Trung Tâm Thương Mại Eden

Trong khi thành phố có kế hoạch phát triển khu vực East End (trong đó bao gồm Trung Tâm Eden),
cộng đồng người Việt tìm cách bảo vệ di sản của mình tại Trung tâm Thương Mãi Eden.

Vietnamese Community Speaks Out About Eden Center’s Preservation

As the city does outreach on its East End vision plan,

the Vietnamese community seeks to protect its legacy at the Eden Center.

Emily Leayman's profile picture

Emily Leayman,Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge

Posted Thu, Mar 30, 2023 at 1:09 pm ET|Updated Thu, Mar 30, 2023 at 1:47 pm ET

The Vietnamese community is getting to share more input about protecting and improving the Eden Center through city outreach on a proposed neighborhood vision plan.The Vietnamese community is getting to share more input about protecting and improving the Eden Center through city outreach on a proposed neighborhood vision plan. (Emily Leayman/Patch)
FALLS CHURCH, VA — Falls Church’s Eden Center isn’t any typical shopping center in Northern Virginia. Lined with restaurants and other businesses, it’s the East Coast’s biggest Vietnamese cultural center, providing a “home away from home” for people in the Vietnamese community like Jess Nguyen.

Out-of-state residents travel to the Eden Center to get groceries or food, and local residents bring their families and friends there. As the hub of Vietnamese culture in the region, residents and business owners worry about changes in the offing.
“I grew up immersed in a pretty big Vietnamese community here, and this was always a spot for us to convene and experience a little piece of Vietnam,” Nyugen told Patch. “I was born here, and I didn’t grow up in Vietnam, so it was good to be immersed in our culture in different ways.”

Nyugen and other activists with Viet Place Collective have a mission of uplifting and preserving the Vietnamese community’s legacy in the DC region. That’s why the group is seeking to hold the City of Falls Church accountable to protecting Eden Center as it introduces a development and reinvestment vision for the neighborhood.
The city is creating a small area plan, which will set standards for reinvestment and redevelopment in the East End. While the area’s biggest landmark is the Eden Center, it also includes other commercial areas like BJ’s Wholesale Club, Koons Ford and 24 Hour Fitness bordered by Wilson Boulevard, East Broad Street, and Hillwood Avenue.

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The city’s comprehensive plan identified the East End as a planning opportunity area from new investment. One priority of the draft plan is preserving the Eden Center and its cultural identity while making programming and public art investments to celebrate Vietnamese-American culture.
Other priorities in the draft plan improving multimodal transportation mobility, activating public spaces, preserving and providing housing opportunities in and around the East End, providing design transitions between existing housing and new development, supporting economic revitalization, and developing in an environmentally-friendly way.

But the draft plan has drawn fears from the Vietnamese community that potential development could displace Vietnamese business owners.
During a listening session in January, members of Viet Place Collective shared concerns about displacement of Eden Center businesses with new development and that the city wasn’t doing enough outreach to meet the Vietnamese community where they are. Nguyen said the proposal doesn’t provide enough investment in current business tenants, and much of past communications about the plan have been in English rather than Vietnamese.

“The core issue here is trying to understand what the city’s intentions are when they talk about Vietnamese preservation,” said Nguyen. “Because at first glance in the plan, initially that seems like we’re trying to preserve the condition of the buildings, nothing is going to physically going to happen to the Eden Center itself. But Viet Place Collective’s concern, along with much of our community, is that there’s not enough intention to ensure that the Vietnamese community specifically doesn’t get displaced.”
Emily Leayman/PatchDisplacement is a valid concern as Nguyen said the Vietnamese community has been “double displaced” — once with the fall of Saigon to the communist North Vietnamese army and again when Little Saigon was the victim of gentrification with the development of Clarendon Metro. That displacement from Clarendon’s Little Saigon led the Vietnamese community to establish Falls Church’s Eden Center.

“Our community has been perpetually in survival mode. Folks can’t really afford to think or fight for themselves because their main intention is just to survive. That’s why Viet Place Collective is here to help kind of be the bridge between the OG generation and folks like us to help them understand that they are able to fight for better conditions for themselves and also continue to honor their Vietnamese heritage.”
To ensure Vietnamese businesses don’t get displaced at the Eden Center, one of the things Viet Place Collective is seeking from the city’s plan is a legacy business program.

“That seems like a wonderful start having some type of program in place to ensure that Viet-owned businesses don’t get displaced,” said Nguyen. “I would go further as to say that in our ideal landscape we would have something like a community benefits agreement, legally binding, protecting the Vietnamese identity in this area and cementing it.”

But there are improvements some would like to see. Nguyen said the top concern she’s heard from Eden Center business owners is parking availability. She said the city’s idea of a public plaza for programming is a good idea in theory, but it would conflicts with the ongoing concern about parking. Instead, Nguyen suggests establishing a type of community center as a gathering space.
The city took the feedback and scheduled several outreach sessions at the Eden Center with a Vietnamese translator and translated documents. At the sessions, city planners set up a table and encourage passerby to share their comments.

City planners take feedback at a pop-up event at the Eden Center. Emily Leayman/PatchEmily Bazemore, a senior planner with the city, told Patch the pop-up events have each asked for feedback on a different theme. The first event asked visitors to share what the Eden Center means to them and how to celebrate Vietnamese culture, and the second asked what they would like to see improved about the Eden Center area.
At Tuesday’s pop-up, visitors were stopping by the city’s table to share their hopes for the Eden Center’s future.

“We really want to people to understand that while it’s all conceptual, it’s good to have a plan. It’s good to have a vision,” said Bazemore. “We really want the vision for the East End area to be reflective of the people who work here, spend their time here. We want our policy guidance to strengthen Eden Center, preserve Eden Center.”

Emily Leayman/PatchSenior planner Cameron Gahres added that it was a “plan for a future plan,” a wish list of sorts for the area. That means if a developer would later come to the city with a plan, the city could determine if it aligns with the community’s vision for the area.

Even before the most recent pop-up events, the city has heard support for Little Saigon branding in the neighborhood and renaming Wilson Boulevard as Saigon Boulevard. Bazemore said the revised plan will also incorporate community desires such as a legacy business program, technical assistance, and heritage tourism. She also noted the significant feedback on parking, as well as a desire for boosted security.
A hands-on feature of Tuesday’s pop-up events encouraged visitors to place blocks on the East End area to show what they want to see. Blocks represented different items like housing, parking lighting, traffic signals, crosswalks and security.
Emily Leayman/PatchNguyen said the new outreach events were a more “genuine” effort to understand the community’s needs. That approach appeared to work as visitors filled an idea board with their hopes for the Eden Center’s future. Nguyen even saw one elder go around to businesses to write down their input on cards for the city.

Nguyen believes there is no sure answer if the city can develop the area without interfering with the Vietnamese community. But she says the best way to move forward is continuing engagement with people that have been at the Eden Center for a long time to understand their needs.

After the extended community outreach period, the city plans to proceed with a revised draft plan at work sessions followed by a potential vote in June.