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Alarm over the sale of a Chinese-society residential hotel gives glimpse of hidden world

June 21st, 2016 · No Comments

The May Wah Hotel is a relic of old Chinatown, built in 1913, filled with tiny rooms where Chinese seniors and not-so-senior others have an extremely affordable haven.

But the Shon Yee Benevolent Association that owns the building and runs it decided, after many years of debate, to put it up for sale recently. Some members were afraid that they’d discover, like a naive strata council, that the building needed massive repairs that they’d never be able to afford.

The news of the sale set off a dust storm of activity, as my story in today’s Globe details. People are looking to either show the association how it can be run more profitably or to buy it and maintain it as low-cost housing.

But, for me, the more interesting part of all this was learning something about the struggles of these societies that have supported local Chinese for decades but are struggling over what to do now about their assets. (Interestingly, Shon Yee does own another residential building at Hastings and Princess, which is much more modern. The society is not at all thinking of getting rid of that one.)

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