My name is Arun Sampanthavivat. I appreciate the opportunity to announce the development of Thai Town Center in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Thai Town Center is the realization of a goal that was set in 2005 after the overwhelmingly successful "Taste of Thailand: Partnership for Life," a collaborative effort between the Thai community in Chicago and the City of Chicago. The initial purpose of "Taste of Thailand" was to bring the Thai community together as an ethnic entity and introduce the culinary and commercial aspects of Thailand to Chicago. The effort succeeded beyond measure on many levels.
One of the most important outcomes was the unity that developed within the Chicago Thai community. For the first time in the history of Chicago, the Thai community came together with a civic mission to represent their native land. They found a singular voice and it was strong and proud.
In addition, the City of Chicago Government officials responded to "Taste of Thailand" in a most overwhelming and humbling manner. The Mayor, Richard M. Daley, immediately called a meeting at the conclusion of "Taste of Thailand" and stated his gratitude and respect for the cooperation, professionalism, enthusiasm and creativity demonstrated by the Thais both from Chicago and Thailand. Mayor Daley stated. "Taste of Thailand has raised the bar in Chicago for what will be considered excellent in the future."
As a result of the "Taste of Thailand" success, another meeting was held with the Mayor of Chicago. This meeting was to propose the possibility of a permanent Thai commercial and cultural presence in Chicago. Mayor Daley embraced the idea immediately. The Mayor stated that, if the effort would reflect the qualities of "Taste of Thailand," the City of Chicago would proudly support the vision. And thus, the work began.
Some fifty years ago when Thais first immigrated to Chicago, They did as all immigrants do: They focused on providing for their families. Social interaction was with other Thais. The primary gathering place was Wat Dhammaram, the principal Thai Temple. This is where the Thai community preserved its cultural heritage and instilled cultural values in their children.
Fifty years later, Thais now exceed 10,000 in Chicago and that number continues to grow. The need to preserve and promote the Thai culture has grown with the population.
The concept is to build a Thai town within the City of Chicago. A destination that would, in fact, attract not only those Thais who lived in Chicago, but also Thais from around the country, the Americas, and beyond. It would also provide the opportunity to introduce Thailand to non-Thais - anyone and anyone who visited would experience a true Thai experience.
The concept is to build a town unlike other: a cultural re-creation in size and scope unlike any outside of its country of origin. It would be the only one of its kind in the world.
The concept was clear. The most challenging task was finding the appropriate land significant enough in size and location within Chicago. To simply find the amount of land required for the vision was nearly impossible. If it could be found, the next challenge was being able to fund what is incredibly valuable land within the City of Chicago.
The search was gratefully embraced by City of Chicago Alderman Margaret Laurino. She leads the 39th Ward in the northwest side of Chicago. Alderman Laurino made it her mission to find a suitable location within her Ward. It took five years to secure enough of the prime land necessary for our vision to move from the concept stage to a possible reality.
THAI TOWN CENTER, INC. (TTC)
In order to proceed, a legal entity was formed - Thai Town Center, Inc. (TTC). It has a dual mission: to be a viable commercial entity featuring all Thai products and services, and to provide a cultural center for the promotion and education of Thai customs and values.
Commercially, TTC will be a for-profit organization, offering world-class Thai restaurant and Thai spa service, and a panorama of Thai product based stores. Culturally, TTC will house a not-for-profit Thai-American Association of Illinois Center for promoting educational programs, social services and events that feature the customs and traditions of Thailand. Discussions are also underway for participation with other partners from Thailand and will be announced at a later date.
A PARTNERSHIP FOR LIFE
A venture of this magnitude requires great investment of time, effort and finances. TTC has been blessed with the support of the Thai community of Chicago and its leaders, The City of Chicago and its leaders, and Thais in Thailand. Every effort is being made to provide the initial opportunity for involvement with TTC to be offered to Thai participants in order to ensure its authenticity. Once this foundation is secure and opportunity has been presented to all interested Thai parties, investment opportunities will be extended beyond Thai interests.
The City of Chicago remains a serious partner for life, identifying ideal property and working diligently to assist us in successfully securing Tax Increment Funds (a government funding program), receiving rezoning, and a host of a community hearing. The result of this incredible government support was a unanimous approval by the County Commissioners and City Staff at the final public hearing. TTC was granted TIF fund from the City of Chicago. TTC will pay current market value for the identified property of $780,000. The total project costs as currently defined is $3 million dollars.
Our goal is to open TTC in the autumn of 2011. Thank you for your interest in Thai Town Center. Any questions or comments concerning TTC may be sent directly to: