Lions guard new plaza bridging divided Chinatown

Two giant stone lions are now inviting pedestrians to muster their courage and cross 12 lanes of traffic at the Vine Street Expressway.

The 10-foot Chinese sculptures flank a newly refurbished plaza at 10th Street hovering above traffic zooming on Interstate 676. The highway has severed the neighborhood for two decades.

For years, Chinatown North has been Chinatown’s ugly stepsister, blighted by trash and vacant industrial properties. The traditional Foo Dog sculptures — stone lions custom-made in China — stand guard around a pergola trellis that will soon be threaded with creeping wisteria plants.

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation has been trying to expand the neighborhood north across the trench cut by the highway.

“The only opportunities for residents is north of Vine up to Spring Garden,” said PCDC director John Chin, who envisions affordable housing in that part of the neighborhood. “In fact, we have Chinese families north of Spring Garden, that’s where the available housing stock is. People can live north of Vine, and work south of Vine.”

North 10th Street will see street improvements this year, including trees, lighting, and sidewalk improvements. The new plaza over the expressway will formally open in the spring, when a traditional Chinese ceremony will be performed to awaken the giant Foo Dogs.

Chin says residents of a nearby senior living facility will use the plaza as an open green space. It will also be the site of weekly farmers’ markets.

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