A Look Back into Little Italy’s Evolution Over the Past Century

Category: Stories

San Diego’s Little Italy has seen a complete transformation since Italian tuna fisherman originally built the community in the 1920’s. Expanding the neighborhood into 48-square blocks, this vibrant downtown hub is positioned as the largest Little Italy in the U.S. Today, the area maintains its rich Italian heritage and stands as a top San Diego destination for locals and tourists to visit.

In the 1920’s, the world’s former “Tuna Capital of the World” saw more than 6,000 Italian families flourish in the stable ethnic business and residential community. With the decline of the tuna industry on the West Coast and the destruction of 35% of Little Italy due to the construction of Interstate-5 freeway, Little Italy suffered nearly thirty years of decline until local property and business owners took a stance in the 1990’s. Over 20 years ago, LIA was formed, reviving Little Italy into the thriving urban neighborhood it is today.

Looking ahead to the next decade, LIA aims to continue growth and development with funding from the Association’s established programs, reaching an annual revenue of over $3.6M in FY19. LIA’s Board of Directors, consisting of 28 people who represent property owners, residents, businesses and community at large, plan to enhance the neighborhood and create jobs in 2020 with an array of events, new businesses and residential living additions and construction expansions.

LIA will bring thousands of visitors to the neighborhood with cultural events like Taste of Little Italy, Little Italy Summer Film Festival, 36th Annual Mission Federal ArtWalk and Little Italy Tree Lighting.

New dining options will appear throughout the year such as the expansion of the popular Little Italy Food Hall - Graze by Sam. Piazza Constanza, a new public piazza opening this year, will honor Midge Constanza, a social and political activist who served as the first female assistant to President Carter and fought for the rights of women, the LBTQ community and other marginalized groups.

Other neighborhood enhancements coming in 2020 include upgrades to the Little Italy Dog Park, finalizing both the large and small dog space. Little Italy’s tallest tower is to break ground at India and W. Cedar Streets as a 33-story modern technology tower and another large market rate tower and an 8-story  low-income senior development on Kettner Boulevard between W. Beech and W. Cedar Streets.

Be sure to stay on the lookout for everything new coming in 2020 by following us on Instagram @littleitalysd, Twitter @LittleItalySD and Facebook @LittleItalySD.