-- The tug of war between its two owners in the last one year
The Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix is a commercial condominium complex that was built in 1997 with great support from the City of Phoenix. It has always been a project of the Phoenix Public Art program, established by the Phoenix City Council, and has earned a design award from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Imperial roof tiles on its main buildings and its garden are the most astonishing and authentic parts in the center.
The materials making up the roof tiles and installing techniques are the same as those used for the Forbidden City in Beijing. This kind of imperial roof tiles is seldom used outside of China or even on common buildings in China. The reason that we can luckily see such precious roof tiles in the U.S. is because the architects who were hired to build the center are successors of the Suzhou Xiangshan Carpenters, a Chinese architectural school that built the Forbidden City and many imperial gardens within last hundreds of years.
Back to the 1990s, the builder of the center hired over a hundred of skillful architects, engineers and technicians from a Garden Research Institute in China. They spent more than six months making exquisite parts for the center and shipped them from China to Phoenix. Later, thirty architects and building engineers were granted visas by the US embassy as a special case and came to Phoenix.
Working with local building contractors, they spent another three months to put the parts together and build the center. Besides the imperial tiled roof, they built replicas of over ten famous Chinese attractions, which all are related to historical stories or beautiful legends that are well known among Chinese. The architects and building engineers were best in their fields then, and now have aged or passed away. The traditional techniques that they used to build the center are vanishing in China as well, due to invasion of modern techniques. It is almost impossible to build such a set of traditional Chinese garden-style architectures again, even in China. The authenticity shown from the Chinese garden-style architectures makes this center stand out among all Asian gardens in the U.S. The Chinese Culture Center in Phoenix is a precious treasure to Phoenix, to Arizona, and to the U.S.
Since the center was built, as a project of the Phoenix Public Art, its common area was always open to public and accessible to all. Its beauty was admired by local residents and tourists from other states and other countries. Naturally, the center has bonded the metro Phoenix Chinese-American community, and its Chinese design elements have cultural and religious significance to the community.
Good times always go fast. In July 2017, the Chinese-American community in Phoenix learnt in surprise that True North Companies LLC, by way of 668 North LLC, became a new major owner of the center. More shockingly, True North Companies LLC plans to remove and replace the tiled roof and strip away Chinese design elements in the garden, without an agreement from the minor owner of the center, CJ Design the Szechwan Palace Restaurant, who has owned 5 units of the center since 1998. Both CJ Design the Szechwan Palace Restaurant and True North Companies LLC share and own the parking lot, garden, exterior walls and roofs in the center, which are all recorded as common elements of this commercial condominium complex.
From then on, people who love the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix have tried preserving the center from demolishment by myriad means, such as petitions, protests, appeals to the Phoenix City Council, and litigations. There are about ten litigations from these preservationists, including one lawsuit against the City of Phoenix for violations of religious land use and discrimination, and another lawsuit against True North Companies LLC from the center's ex-Anchor tenant, Super L Ranch Market, which was forced by True North Companies LLC to evacuate in August, 2017. Among all the litigations, the lawsuits from the minor owner of the center, who is also the owner of Szechwan Palace Restaurant that is located in the center, succeeded to hit pause in time on the demolishment of the roof tiles and the garden.
In the past one year, True North Companies LLC refused to discuss with the preservationists for a feasible solution. In contrast, True North Companies LLC unilaterally closed off access to the Garden, the roof, hallways, the foyer's, and removed statues in the center, which totally ruined the surrounding environment of Szechwan Palace Restaurant.
Furthermore, fake information indicating that the center is permanently closed was posted on the internet from time to time. All of these significantly hurt the business of Szechwan Palace Restaurant . It had been one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in the metro Phoenix area with great revenue for almost twenty years, but now it can barely afford to run the business.
Relocating the restaurant to continue its profitable business would be an easy solution to the predicament of the minor owner, which must be True North Companies LLC's wish as well. However, the minor owner is an admirable man who cannot be defeated easily. He has chosen to work actively with his attorneys, fighting for his legal rights.
The preservationists of the center have continuously tried to negotiate with True North Companies LLC. Meanwhile, they greatly support the minor owner by donations, dining in the restaurant, and talking to the public about his rights. Eventually, from late 2017, their voices were heard and supported by local media : "Yes, the Chinese Cultural Center's other owner has rights, too ". On June 18, 2018, a motion filed by True North Companies LLC to dismiss a lawsuit by Szechwan Palace Restaurant was denied by the Court of Appeals. This court decision was a big relief to the preservationists because it meant that True North Companies LLC would not be able to execute its demolishing plans for months or years.
About 10 days later after the denial by the Court of Appeals, True North Companies LLC took an extreme action by holding a special meeting of the Condominium Association without a notification to CJ Design the Szechwan Palace Restaurant. In the meeting, a termination agreement to get rid of the Condominium Association was unilaterally passed. Even more appallingly, an unjustified appraisal to force the sale of Szechwan Palace Restaurant's 5 units to True North Companies LLC, was passed as well.
Once again, the minor owner chose to fight for his rights and filed one more lawsuit against True North Companies LLC.
The above is a summary of the protection activities of the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix for the past one year. Maybe some of you are interested to find out. If you are willing to contribute generously, it would be greatly appreciated. There are a number of enthusiasts who have generously provided donation matching: for each $100 donation is received, they will match the same amount donations. The goal is to raise $50,000 to continuously support the minor owner of the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix.
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Note that all landscape pictures were taken at the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix. Some pictures are from internet.