Dragon Centre Stories
Opened in 1984 in Agincourt, Scarborough, Dragon Centre was North America’s first indoor Chinese mall. Its developers — brothers Daniel and Henry Hung, originally from Hong Kong — adapted an old roller-skating rink into a mall serving the Greater Toronto Area’s growing Chinese-Canadian population. Combining Hong Kong’s dense commercial markets and the big box North American shopping mall, Dragon Centre was a retail centre providing Chinese goods that, at the time, could otherwise only be purchased in Toronto’s downtown Chinatowns. More than a collection of stores, the mall was a major cultural hub for the Chinese-Canadian community. It served as a catalyst for the development of what many identified as “Scarborough’s Chinatown,” a hub among other Chinese malls and plazas that sprung up in the Agincourt area in the following years.
In October 2019, in anticipation of the mall’s redevelopment, a group of collaborators hosted a commemoration and story-sharing event at the mall. Over 100 people came to remember, honour, and process the pending loss of Dragon Centre and its place in Scarborough’s history. Collaborators included Howard Tam of ThinkFresh Group and Eat More Scarborough Food Tours; Erica Allen-Kim of the Daniels School of Architecture (U of T) and her students; photographer Morris Lum; the School of Cities (U of T); Myseum of Toronto; Camille Bégin, who works at Heritage Toronto, and who has, as an independent researcher, written about the mall, the developers, Shiupong, and ERA Architects.
The event and ongoing story collection through the Dragon Centre Stories website, intersects with and draws from a web of academic research, artistic investigation, professional practice, and deep personal connections to the mall.
In the field of heritage conservation, Dragon Centre is helping us consider the scales at which we need to think and collaborate to understand cultural heritage in the suburbs and in retail contexts. Dragon Centre connects to complex issues related to global patterns of migration and the economics of settlement; it is also a neighbourhood mall that cannot be understood without engaging its community of users, what it represents to them, and listening to their lived experiences and needs.
- Community partnership
- ThinkFresh / University of Toronto Daniels School of Architecture / University of Toronto School of Cities / Erica Allen-Kim / Camille Begin / Morris Lum Photography / Myseum / Shiupong
- Heritage & Cultural Planning
- Arts & Culture
- Alexis Cohen/Hallie Church/Sharon Hong