by Photo by Sarah Berjan

Little Italy's business district in downtown San Diego became a top destination for locals and tourists after it's revitalization by New City America, the same company who is set to transform Third Avenue, Chula Vista's historic 16 block commercial corridor. 

The Third Avenue Village Association (TAVA), a corporation representing property and business owners of Third Avenue, hired New City America in August. The company will manage the Property-Based Business Improvement District on behalf of TAVA to achieve what little Italy had been doing over the past 25 years. 

“Third Ave has great infrastructure and it has a great location,” President of New City America, Marco Li Mandri said. “ I think TAVA has been looking for a much stronger partner in terms of staff to really take Third Avenue to the next level, particularly before the Bayfront gets developed.” 

Li Mandri said New City America was brought in by Third Avenue to cultivate the demand seen in Little Italy and create a more “walkable environment”. Plans to bring art, public spaces, farmers markers, restaurants and mixed use developments and more are underway to make Third Avenue a focal point in the South Bay.

Third Avenue is home to small retailers, businesses, breweries, hair salons and more. “Holes in the environment”, such as the two empty lots located on E Street and Third Avenue are set to be filled. According to Li Mandri, the company is working with various developers to look empty public spaces. 

“The micro-climate is great on Third Ave. It’s not far away at all from the Bayfront project and we think the more public spaces that we put throughout the district, particularly on the corners and on memorial park, the more people will feel comfortable going there just hanging out and enjoying whether it may be retailers, services, restaurants and more,” Li Mandri said.  

Third Avenue runs from E to I streets, and envisioned improvements comes after the city partnered with the San Diego Association of Governments to invest $14.1 million in streetscape improvements that have been made in phases over 2012-2020. 

The company is eyeing Memorial Park to make it a “much better public space” by transforming it into a plaza area for outdoor dining or outdoor seating. 

“It’s a great park and it's a tremendous asset,” Li Mandri said.

Councilwoman Jill Galvez, whose constituency is in District 2, which includes Third Avenue said she hopes New City America continues to develop their vision to bring multi-generational outdoor opportunities to parts of Third Avenue to

“Where the fountain and the Heritage Museum stood on the edge of memorial park, there is a perfect opportunity to create a space for our neighborhoods to walk to and enjoy the park's beautiful views on Third Avenue, and I’m looking forward to that space being activated," Galvez said. 

Increased tourism is expected with the construction of the Chula Vista Bayfront and with the recent reopening of the U.S Border to non-essential travel. According to Li Mandri, the "the city needs a linkage between Third Avenue and the Bayfront," particularly on E and H Streets. 

"We think that all of those new people that will be coming in as visitors will really create that demand,” Li Mandri said. “The next 5-10 years is going to be something pretty exciting for both sides of the border. We know that there is a lot of people coming  up from both sides of the border. They drive up to downtown San Diego, but this will be far more closer. We believe it will be far more Latino oriented."

According to Li Mandri, TAVA is in the process of creating these visions so when committees are set up, local merchants and retailers can provide their input. He notes the company will take another 6 months to ascertain what the overall community would like to see. 

“The board has been nothing but supportive. Their view is 'let's get going' and we have a lot of time to make up for. Let's be results oriented. We’ve had an excellent rapport with the board thus far,” Li Mandri said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused economic and social disruption which presented unprecedented challenges in public health, food systems, and even businesses. According to Li Mandri, "there are some holes in any business district due to the COVID-19 pandemic," one being the long occupied Mangia Italiano on Third Avenue that is slated to be replaced by a Tiki bar. 

The first event launched by New City America was in October for Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). For the holiday season, they will host an ugly Christmas sweater contest and stocking stuffer bash on Dec.11 to generate business and unite the community. 




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