Vancouver's 'Little India' hits hard times
Vancouver's Punjabi market was once a world famous tourist attraction, but now this historic neighbourhood is in trouble.
Mona's Cloth House just marked its 20th anniversary, and shopkeeper Madan Dhingra told CTV News that a lot has changed in two decades.
"There was a time that having a store on Main Street was a licence to make money," he said.
But business died when property taxes skyrocketed. Many merchants packed up and went to Surrey.
"Now you just sit and wait to see if someone walks in today or no," Dhingra said.
Some say there's too much tax discrepancy even within South Vancouver.
Merchant Naresh Shukla said that within the South Main neighbourhood, a space measuring 33 by 110 feet costs $28 thousand a year in property taxes.
"Same size lot on Fraser, property tax is approximately $15 to $16 thousand," Shukla said.
Business is so bad that the Punjabi Market Association estimates one third of stores sit empty. Some have been that way for six years.
They've repeatedly asked the city to lower taxes.
"We are telling them to bring it down, and they are giving us excuses," merchant Harinder Singh Toor told CTV News.
And what happened to a joint civic and provincial commitment of $3 million to construct a gate at Main Street and 50th Avenue, like the one in Chinatown?
All three levels of government talked about it in 2008, but it's still just a discussion.
"It's not even in the book," Shukla said.
Now old-timers who build little India are calling it a career.
"I never thought I would call it quits from this place, but it's had it's day, too," Dhingra said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Renu Bakshi