The Story of the Honolulu Chinatown Arch

By Eddie Flores, Jr.

In 2019, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell called a meeting with me. He lamented that Honolulu has the oldest Chinatown and yet it does not have its own arch. He asked me to take on the project to build a Chinatown arch that the Chinese community will be proud of.  It only took me only a minute to agree to spearhead the project with the full support and backing of the City and County of Honolulu under his leadership.

I have many good memories of Honolulu’s Chinatown. I arrived from Hong Kong as a 16-year old immigrant in 1963. My family lived a couple of blocks from Chinatown at Kukui Garden Apartment. I always looked forward to watching Kung Fu movies at American Liberty Theaters with my friends. After the show, we ate at Tin Tin Chop Suey or Dalisay Filipino Food, then met my friends at the pool hall to play a couple of games. Honolulu’s Chinatown was my childhood playground. Many Chinese in Hawaii also have similar experiences or have been told stories of Honolulu’s vibrant past. We all have the desire to see this in our present day here on Oahu.

Thus, several experts, community leaders, and business people came together to form the organization, “A Better Chinatown Association (ABCA)” – a 501(C)3 non-profit organization. The mission of ABCA is to build a Chinatown Arch, to promote economic development activities, and to work closely with the city to have a safe and clean Chinatown. To make it official, an agreement with the City and County of Honolulu was signed in February 2020 to authorize the work on the project. 

The first arch will be built at King and Kekaulike streets with a second arch to be located at the streets of Hotel and Kekaulike. Both arches are in the heart of designated Chinatown area. Andrew Tang, who has extensive design experience in Holland, designed a very unique version of the Chinatown arch that will be created for Honolulu. The first arch will honor ten individuals who made significant contributions to Hawaii’s Chinese community and Honolulu’s Chinatown. They are the leaders and community builders in the Chinese community in Hawaii. Their profiles will be inscribed at the base of the arch’s two pillars. The selection committee consists of Michelle Choy, Victor Lim, Elisia Flores, Mona Choy, Peter Shi, Leonard Kam, Edwina Lee, Dr. Wong, Gifford Chang, and myself. The committee has collected 26 potential candidates for consideration and plans to make the final selection next month for the ten honorees. 

The mission of ABCA is to build a Chinatown Arch, to promote economic development activities, and to work closely with the city to have a safe and clean Chinatown.

Advisory Committee

  • Dr. Joseph Young (Honorary Chair)
  • Eddie Flores, Jr. (Chair)

  • Lieutenant Governor Josh Green
  • Hawaii State Representative Daniel Holt
  • Incoming Honolulu City Council member Calvin Say
  • Hawaii State Senator Karl Rhoades
  • Peter Shi
  • Elisia Flores
  • Michele Choy
  • Mona Choy
  • Leonard Kam
  • Gifford Chang
  • Victor Lim
  • Joseph Hu
  • Edwina Lee
  • Lucy Wong

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