Traders renew calls to bring Chinatown back to its former glory

Traders renew calls to bring Chinatown back to its former glory
Brendan Rees

Traders in Chinatown are hoping to breathe new life into the historic precinct after citing concerns of increases in rough sleepers and graffiti, and an overall outdated appearance of the area.

Chinatown has long been a popular destination for locals and tourists and is known for its vibrant atmosphere and Asian cuisine, but business owners say in recent years, particularly since COVID, the area has been on the decline.

This has included an increase of homeless individuals seeking shelter, drug activity, public urination, and graffiti on heritage buildings. They also said the current aspect of the precinct was looking tired and in need of refreshing including updating the iconic hanging red lanterns on Little Bourke St.

“It’s not a pleasant sight. We want Melbourne to be safe and a tourist environment and pleasant for everyone running their business,” Danny Han, who has family businesses in Chinatown, told CBD News.


Anyone who walks through Chinatown now doesn’t feel it’s a special part of Melbourne. It’s a tired precinct.


“The council is always doing a great job and we want to obviously help and support that idea [of revitalising the area].”



Mr Han, whose family-run business Nord International real estate agency on the corner of Swanston and Little Bourke streets, said staff would often encounter people experiencing homelessness, and others “causing chaos”.

He also said there was faded red paint on the middle of the road from a Chinese New Year event five years ago, which was “just forgotten”.   

There was also graffiti on buildings, with Mr Han’s business also impacted, which had “three shades of white from repaints that don’t match from cleaning the graffiti”.

Another trader, who runs a nail salon on Bourke St, said she supported revitalisation with the hope the precinct would become more “colourful” with more events.

Melbourne Chinatown Business Association president Christina Zhao said addressing homelessness involved a collaborative effort between the City of Melbourne, social services, and community organisations to provide support and housing solutions.

“Streetscape improvements may include enhancing pedestrian infrastructure, adding green spaces, and implementing cultural markers to celebrate Chinatown’s heritage,” she said.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council was always looking for new ways to improve the Chinatown experience.

“We’re ramping up cleaning efforts, delivering the infrastructure local traders need and supercharging our events program to attract more visitors and boost business,” she said.  

“This ongoing investment has supported the revitalisation of the precinct – with February’s night-time pedestrian activity up more than 22 per cent from pre-pandemic levels.”  

The council also helps fund Lunar New Year celebrations, which sees more than 150,000 people attending the Chinatown event.



Melbourne East Local Area Commander Inspector Dale Huntington said there was  a strong police presence in Chinatown, particularly at the Bourke and Swanston streets intersection.

He said while there were some issues they were addressing, the latest crime data indicated crime had dropped in the area.

But Insp. Huntington added, “We really want people to engage with their local trader associations and residents’ associations because we deal a lot with them, and we really want to hear from people”. •

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