Vaughan + China: stories of urban and cultural transformation

Three-part series chronicles recent China business mission

The City of Vaughan joined the Province of Ontario on a successful business mission to China last month to increase trade opportunities for businesses in Vaughan, create strategic partnerships with Chinese companies and establish Vaughan as a preferred location for investment.

This second article in the three-part series looks at how cities in China are transforming under-utilized space into liveable, walkable and enjoyable cultural hubs complete with complex transportation systems.

The 14-day business mission included tours of head offices, government bureaus, cultural and historical museums and education institutions showcasing the diverse and rapidly expanding domestic market in China. Ward 4 Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco and Elaine Yim Spencer, City of Vaughan economic development officer, attended the mission and came back to Vaughan better for the experience and with key lessons learned.


The business mission to China provided several opportunities to see how development, technology and creativity are furthering the prosperity and growth of many of its cities. From creating pleasant pedestrian-friendly environments to fostering cultures of innovation and technology within the community, these learning experiences provide good insight that can be applied to the development of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC), the City’s new downtown.

The City’s vision for a new downtown is one of a vibrant, modern urban centre for residents and businesses that encompasses all amenities of urban lifestyle:

  • Inspiring multi-use office towers
  • Residences
  • Open greenspace
  • Urban squares
  • Pedestrian shopping areas
  • Restaurants
  • Walking and cycling paths

Creating a true “downtown” has been the vision for Vaughan since the rapid growth in the 1980s and 1990s changed the city from a quiet collection of towns into a thriving city.

China Mission Day 11_2


The first day of the China mission began in Hong Kong with the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO). Councillor Racco and Elaine were hosted by Brenda Au, head of the EKEO, and Winnie Ho, deputy head of the EKEO. The EKEO, inaugurated in June 2012, governs and monitors the development of Kowloon East with a goal of transforming the area into a premier core business district in Hong Kong in order to support its economic growth and strengthen its global competitiveness.

The EKEO team presented its master plan for Kowloon East’s transformation from an industrial and manufacturing area into an attractive business area. In May 2014, EKEO commissioned the Pedestrian Environment Improvement Scheme for Transformation of Kwun Tong Business Area – Feasibility Study.

The vision for Kowloon East is to create a “walkable,” “stayable” and “sittable” core business district that incorporates work, live and play. The objectives of the study are to review the pedestrian environment and traffic conditions and develop an achievable improvement design that allows for pedestrian linkages, a road network and enhanced accessibility from various transit stations to the waterfront.

A three-stage public engagement initiative focuses on identifying key issues, brainstorming and collecting public input on proposed improvement strategies and collaborating with key stakeholders through various public engagement activities.

The study and engagement program is underway, and the City will remain in touch with its partners at the EKEO as this exciting urban transformation continues to take shape.

China Mission Day 2_2


The second day of the China mission was spent with Daisy Cheung, senior manager of the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Established in 2000, the ITC works to create a vibrant ecosystem that uses software and hardware support to foster research collaboration between key players and create development and innovation activities.

The ITC’s approach to promoting innovation and technology development is built upon five core strategies:

  1. Providing world-class technology infrastructure for enterprises, research institutions and universities
  2. Offering financial support to stakeholders in the industry, academia and research sectors to develop and commercialize their research and development results
  3. Nurturing talent
  4. Strengthening science and technology collaboration with the mainland and other economies
  5. Fostering a vibrant culture of innovation

The ITC also works closely with government departments, the industrial and business sectors, tertiary institutions and industrial support organizations to promote applied research and development in different technology areas.

Councillor Racco and Elaine had an opportunity to attend the InnoCarnival 2015, organized by the ITC. The nine-day InnoCarnival is just one of a range of activities in support of InnoTech Month 2015, an initiative that promotes a culture of innovation and technology within the community. This year’s InnoCarnival theme, “InnoTech — Key to a Boundless Future,” featured free activities for the public, including large-scale exhibits, an electric vehicle demonstration, workshops, seminars, science competitions and guided tours. The event aims to give the public a hands-on and fun-filled experience of the convenience and enjoyment that innovation and technology bring to daily life.

This experience highlighted Hong Kong’s interesting approach to promoting and boosting the public’s interest in and understanding of technology — particularly among the younger generation. Councillor Racco and Elaine were pleasantly surprised to see how the InnovCarnival 2015 not only attracted the younger generation but seniors as well. Many seniors groups had the opportunity to visit and learn about the new technologies that can eventually enhance their standard of living.

China Mission Day 2_1


Stay tuned for the final instalment of this series, which will take a closer look at Chinese history, culture, development and innovation and how Vaughan is working to deepen our friendship agreements with China.

Don’t forget to read part one of this series, which outlines all the successes the China business mission brought to Vaughan and how we’re creating lasting, long-term partnerships that will increase our competitive advantage and support our local businesses and economy.



Visit the City of Vaughan’s website at


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