VANCOUVER City Council has unanimously supported a motion by NPA Councillor Melissa De Genova to designate a portion of Commercial Drive as Little Italy. De Genova says she is thrilled with Council’s support for her motion and pleased that she has been able to advance this long overdue recognition of Little Italy in Vancouver.
However, she is concerned that an amendment made to her motion by Vision Council members will stall the recognition process by making it part of the contentious Grandview-Woodlands Community Plan. De Genova says making Little Italy part of the Grandview-Woodlands planning process is “a slap in the face” to the Italian community, noting that recognition of other cultural communities in the city, such as Little Saigon, Chinatown, and the Punjabi Market, were never subject to the higher planning standard being imposed on Little Italy.
“I appreciate the strong support I’ve received from the Italian community and the Commercial Drive business owners who came out to support my Little Italy motion,” says De Genova. “I’m going to work tirelessly to ensure that Little Italy on Commercial Drive is officially designated before next year’s ‘Italian Day on the Drive’ event. Vision can stall it, but they can’t stop it.”
Randy Rinaldo, whose family has been actively involved in the Italian community in the Lower Mainland for many years, says he is pleased to see Council moving forward towards recognition of Little Italy. However, he is disappointed that Council is making the designation subject to the broader Grandview-Woodlands plan and not proceeding immediately with formal recognition and designation.
“There are about 30 Italian-owned and Italian product-related businesses in an eight-block radius along The Drive,” says Rinaldo. “Nowhere else in the Lower Mainland do you see such a concentration of Italian businesses in one place. The Italian community continues to be the heart and soul of The Drive and it was the Italian community that defined The Drive’s accepting community spirit seen today.”
Many other cities, such as Montreal, Toronto, New York, Boston, Edmonton and Winnipeg, enjoy the economic, tourism and cultural benefits of having an area designated as Little Italy.