Chinatown nonprofits sign new lease extending life of interactive community space

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The Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco signed a six-month, below-market-rate lease last year for 41 Ross — a long-vacant storefront in Chinatown’s oldest alley, transforming it into an artist-led space for youth to develop their own community-oriented creations.

Called San Francisco Chinatown Keywords School, the project “came out very successful” — so much so that it promoted the Chinatown Community Development Center to partner with the foundation and seek a longer lease for 41 Ross, according to Cathie Lam, a senior community organizer with the development center.

“We felt like, ‘why don’t we formally collaborate and utilize this space to really be an active, interactive space that brings culture and the general public together?’” Lam said.

“And besides that, we also wanted it to be like a resource hub with certain social services for locals who come in.”

The landlord — despite higher bids from social clubs interested in the space for private use — was partial to the nonprofits’ venture and offered another below-market-rate lease last October for one year, and is likely to extend, Lam said.

Today, the continuance of 41 Ross comes to light with its grand opening at 3 p.m., featuring an exhibit of World Journal photojournalist Ben Kwan’s Chinatown street photography from the 1980s, which will be on display through late September.

Soon, 41 Ross will also be a place for community-based organizations to offer services and a project is in the works to make maps of Chinatown
for public use. The space will at the end of the month host workshops teaching children from single-room-occupancy hotels the art of shadow puppetry.

“Through this workshop, they can really see what their abilities are, especially to break through the four walls that confine them in an SRO room,” Lam said. “If it’s successful, we will probably do more with low-income kids.”

41 Ross, located 41 Ross Alley, is open Thursday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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