True North Companies responds to Chinese Cultural Center backlash

Posted at 10:42 PM, Sep 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-08 02:17:26-04

True North Companies, the private equity firm that purchased the Chinese Cultural Center, said it is willing to help preserve pieces of the center and potentially help fund the creation of another center in the Valley, according to a news release distributed by a PR firm on Thursday.

Members of the Chinese community and the Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix have rallied outside the center, and held at least one formal press conference, in an effort to save the center from undergoing an extensive renovation that would allegedly remove some of its iconic features.

True North plans to turn the center, which was built in 1997, into its new headquarters.

In a news release, True North said the center "has significantly struggled for many years with numerous failed businesses and very low occupancy."

Twenty-six percent of the center's space is occupied, said True North.

The Super L Ranch Market, a Chinese grocery store, closed its doors at the end of August with plans to relocate to Scottsdale.

In a Facebook post, the market said its lease was up and it was not given the option to renew.

True North said it met with community leaders and offered solutions, but "the people interested in preserving the site have been unable to reach agreement amongst themselves, which has complicated a path forward," according to the release.

Former Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon has joined the campaign to preserve the cultural center and has recently been appointed spokesperson of that initiative.

In a phone interview with ABC15 on Thursday evening, Gordon said community leaders want to work with True North to find a solution that is a "win-win" for everyone, but that the solution has to preserve the significance of the center.

In its release, True North listed options it said would preserve parts of the building.

  • Community garden: "Though preservation of this garden would be expensive, the property owner is open to doing so as well as making it available to the public during normal business hours."
  • Sculptures, welcome gate and signs: The owner is open to preserve and potentially relocate an estimated two dozen Chinese sculptures, signs and the 30-foot entrance gate to another location. The same goes for 10 palettes of unused tiles.
  • Community cultural center: The owner will provide up to 8,000-square-feet of space at the renovated center to be used as a community cultural center and managed by a non-profit organization for up to three years, or until a new location for the center has been established.

The company also suggested relocating the Chinese Cultural Center to Hance Park and said it would contribute $100,000 dollars to that effort.

"We hope these various options demonstrate the genuine good faith and creativity we are extending to the community to reach a mutually-beneficial solution," Tedesco said in a prepared statement. "We also hope people will understand and respect the investment we have made to invigorate a property that has struggled mightily for many years, as well as the property rights that are very clear. Because we need to move forward with our new corporate headquarters, we will need a solidified direction very soon."