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South Philadelphia Community, Activists Unveil Plans To Save Beloved Hoa Binh Plaza

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Activists are continuing to fight for the future of a shopping center at the heart of South Philadelphia's Asian community. Plans to save Hoa Binh Plaza were unveiled at a block party Sunday morning at the supermarket located at 16th and Washington Streets.

"Our goal today is to bring the community out and celebrate the importance of the plaza," Lan Dinh, with VietLead, said.

Celebration and excitement surrounded the fourth annual Lunar New Year Winter Block Party at South 16th and Washington Streets on Sunday, but uncertainty about the future of the three-decide old Hoa Binh Plaza is on the top of minds for many.

"We feel like if the plaza leaves, it's going to add into additional gentrification in the area,' Dinh said. "It's going to push out long-term residents."

The Vietnamese community-based organization VietLead and South Philly residents want the real estate development company Streamline, which bought the plaza to build luxury condos, to schedule its reconvened zoning variance hearing so the community can have more of a say on what happens to the property.

VietLead says at a city zoning board of adjustment meeting, Streamline agreed to meet with community members before April 1 -- which is when the businesses' leases end.

"We have yet to hear from Streamline. It's been about six months," Dinh said.

Hoa Binh means peace, but this plaza means so much more, especially to the owners who have been here since the beginning.

Ngan Thi Vo owns Hung Long Communication, Inc., which is a money-wiring service and convenience store.

The married mother of three, who received her eviction notice in November, says she can't find an affordable location in the neighborhood to move her business.

She says the impact of losing the plaza would be huge because of the history of the southeast Asian community.

"This is sort of like a central location," she said. "Vietnamese people, Lao people, Tai people, Cambodian people are my customers and every time I'm able to service them here, it's also like a source of happiness for me."

Many longtime shoppers agree.

"I just hate to see it go," shopper William Beasley said.

"Being African American, I know how important it is to know your culture, respect it and have evidence of it around you," said Madeline Shikomba, co-founder of The North of Washington Avenue Coalition.

Attendees on Sunday signed petitions to send to the 2nd District Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson.

CBS3 reached out to Mayor Jim Kenney and Streamline and have yet to hear back.

CBS3 also attempted to talk with one of the landlords who sold the property, but the owner did not want to speak on camera.

"We realize this is going to be a big battle, but it's one that we hope that you will support so that they can remain here," Shikomba said.

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