Ambitious Project Proposed for Little Italy

The proposal would, in part, vacate a portion of Date Street between India and Columbia streets to make room for a public plaza

A large-scale development project has been proposed for San Diego’s Little Italy community, one that would vacate a portion of a major street in order to create a spacious public plaza, among other ambitious additions.

Civic San Diego announced that it has received an application from developer H.G. Fenton for the “Fenton India/Date Project,” which includes blocking off Date Street between India and Columbia streets.

On the vacated portion of the street, the developer would then construct an 11,200-square-foot public plaza to be maintained by the Little Italy Maintenance Assessment District, according to the proposed agreement. This means no more parking spots or traffic in that major portion of the community.

The project outline includes the construction of a seven-story, residential, mixed-use building that would be located on the north side of Date Street between India and Columbia streets and would house about 100 units.

On the south side of Date Street, between India and Columbia streets, the developer would also construct a five-story, residential, mixed-use project.

Under both of those new buildings and across Date Street, the proposal entails the construction of underground parking structures.

The project would bring new outdoor dining areas to Little Italy along the north and south side of Date Street. The notice of application for the project states the allocation of up to $1,000,000 of development impact fees, revenues earmarked to mitigate extra wear and tear on streets, for example, caused by higher density.

The development proposal for Little Italy was reviewed by community leaders Wednesday morning at a Civic San Diego Real Estate Committee meeting in downtown San Diego.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the project received a lot of positive feedback, with supporters saying the development project will create jobs, help small businesses and add a nice area for people to relax in this busy neighborhood near downtown.

Mike Neal, of H.G. Fenton, the developer, said the new additions would make Little Italy even more welcoming than it already is for visitors and residents alike.

“The Little Italy Association has had a long term vision of creating a magical place, that’s the best way to put it, for people to gather in Little Italy. And so they came to us when we bought the site, the Northern site and said ‘Will you make this part of your project? Will you help bring our magic to life?’ So that's what we're doing,” said Neal.

If the proposed plan is approved, developers hope to get started this summer and finish by 2016.

The project is slated to be discussed at two additional meetings at 401 B Street in downtown San Diego on Mar. 19 and Mar. 26. The meetings are open to the public and anyone can attend to learn more about the proposal, ask questions or express concerns.

On Tuesday, some Little Italy residents voiced mixed reactions on the project, which might mean their community won’t be so little anymore.

Louren Labrum said she enjoys living in Little Italy as it is, and doesn’t like the idea of building up.

“My reaction is that I would like them to keep it the small community feel,” she told NBC 7. “I think we’re very blessed to have Little Italy here and if they make so many commercialized and tall buildings, we’re just going to be like any other city.”

Dorith Weinbaum welcomes the development project.

“I think it’s fantastic. The more the merrier in Little Italy of downtown San Diego. I think it’s great.”

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