Updated July 23, 2022 - 8:39 am
In 1994, a Chinese-themed strip mall penciled for Las Vegas was poised to offer Asian architectural designs, restaurants and even a wedding temple.
“I think it will be the first Chinese quickie marriages,” one of the developers said in a Review-Journal story at the time.
The retail center, Chinatown Plaza, ultimately became a hub of Asian cuisine and culture in Southern Nevada and the foundation of Las Vegas’ Chinatown commercial district along Spring Mountain Road. Now, almost three decades after it opened, the plaza is under new ownership.
Southern California investor George Lin acquired Chinatown Plaza for $38 million, property records show. The sale, by JHK Investment Group, closed last month.
The two-story plaza at the corner of Spring Mountain and Wynn roads, a mile and a half west of the Strip, sits on 7 acres. It is about 92 percent occupied, said JHK Vice President Sharon Hwang, who has been managing the property and whose father, Henry Hwang, was part of its development group.
The purchase marks a new chapter for a retail center that is popular with locals and tourists and launched a corridor of other strip malls packed with Asian eateries and shops.
Sharon Hwang said people made inquiries over the years about buying the center, including maybe four serious inquiries this year alone.
She felt like some prospective buyers would have operated the plaza as part of a big portfolio without much individual attention. But she said her father has been talking about retiring in recent years, and he wanted a buyer who shared his vision and values and would take care of the property.
“It just matched perfectly,” she said of the new owner.
Lin could not be reached for comment.
Chinatown Plaza, which has a traditional archway out front and other Chinese design features, boasts restaurants and cafes; grocery store 99 Ranch Market; and a mall within the mall that sells everything from hats, sunglasses and clothing to jewelry, mini Buddha statues and swords.
It has also hosted cultural events including annual Chinese New Year celebrations.
Robert Young, president and chairman of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, said the plaza was a big source of help for the community, noting it’s the reason Spring Mountain is now lined with Asian businesses.
He said Las Vegas had “very, very limited” options for Chinese food when he moved here in 1992. Chinatown Plaza opened in 1995, and despite the name of the corridor it spawned along Spring Mountain, Las Vegas’ Chinatown district offers a variety of Asian cuisines including Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese.
“You have everything,” Young said.
Sue Fawn Chung, author of “The Chinese in Nevada,” told me there had been “many attempts to establish a thriving Chinatown in Las Vegas,” with one of the biggest efforts dating to the 1950s.
Chinatown Plaza’s success stemmed from its grocery store and decor, she said, adding the original owners wanted a “pan-Asian plaza” that wasn’t limited to Chinese businesses.
Moreover, a “variety of offerings” at the center including books, DVDs and jewelry, “brought in many customers, both Asian and non-Asian,” she said.
Hwang said the plaza gets shuttle buses of tourists, and restaurant operators still make inquiries about the center. The plaza has also drawn some political events over the years, she noted.
“This is pretty iconic,” she said.