PHOENIX - The Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix has a new owner who wants to modernize it, while supporters want to keep its Asian heritage.
About 100 or so of those supporters gathered outside the center last weekend, lining the streets and chanting, hoping to persuade others to want to keep the center the same.
"It's not just a cultural center for the Chinese community. It's a cultural center for the entire community in Arizona," said Andy Zhang, the vice president of the Arizona Asian Alliance.
Zhang is part of a team team hoping to keep the center as it is.
The Chinese Cultural Center, off 44th Street just south of the Loop 202, was built in the late 1990's. It's home to a number of small restaurants and businesses and an Asian Market that's relocating to Scottsdale at the end of this month.
But now the center's Asian-inspired green roofs and red columns built with materials imported from China are in jeopardy. The center has a new owner and plans for a new facade.
"It's shocking to the entire Chinese community, because we didn't know anything about it until a couple of weeks ago," said Zhang.
True North Companies bought the Chinese Cultural Center through an LLC in June. Its CEO, David Tedesco, didn't want to go on-camera, but told 12 News the center is 75 percent vacant and just five percent of the tenants are Chinese. Tedesco also said he was assured there was no Chinese interest in the property before his company purchased it.
True North plans to modernize the center, move 300 of its employees there and lease the rest of the space to other businesses. Tedesco promises the Chinese Culture Garden will remain and is offering to donate other artifacts to the Chinese community.
Still, the supporters -- Chinese and American -- want the center to stay as is and are petitioning the city to make the center a historic landmark.
To be designated a historic landmark, sites must be either 50 years old or be deemed exceptionally important. The Chinese Cultural Center is just about 20 years old, so the city's historic preservation office will evaluate its significance.