Despite encroachments by big development projects such as the Vine Street Expressway and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia's Chinatown has maintained a sense of history and community for more than a century.

But it occupies a tightly confined space in Center City, which has forced new immigrants to settle elsewhere in the region.

"Even if people aren't settling directly in Chinatown, it's still the heart — the cultural heart and the symbolic heart — of the community," said historian Kathryn Wilson. She gained an intimate knowledge of the Chinatown community during her years with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 

Now, she's authored the first history of the neighborhood, "Ethnic Renewal in Philadelphia's Chinatown: Space, Place and Struggle." 

Wilson will discuss the subject at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Wednesday evening, along with Mary Yee, one of the leaders of the Save Chinatown movement, and John Chin, who grew up in the neighborhood and serves as executive director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

Wilson stopped by WHYY to speak with NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller. Click on the audio link above to hear their conversation.