That little slice of Italy depicted in a downtown New Orleans plaza is getting another makeover. Officials are still hoping to attract people and commerce to the monument designed to look like an Italian plaza.
The Piazza D’Italia opened in 1978, and was featured in the 1984 World’s Fair. But the development designed to highlight the contributions of the Italian-American community to New Orleans never caught on.
The modern version of an Italian open market remains wedged behind the Lowe’s Hotel on Poydras Street, at the far end of a parking lot on Tchoupitoulas Street.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu says he has discussed the plaza with the mayor in office when it opened — his dad.
“He continues to remind me from time to time that cities live around really important spaces, and architectural significance is critical as we try to make New Orleans as beautiful as she always wanted to be," Landrieu says. "And we think of her in the vein of Paris and San Francisco and some of the great architectural gems of that time — we borrow from those different cultures.”
The Canal Street Development Corporation is working with the city on $257,000 worth of improvements. Landrieu says the money comes from parking fees of the surrounding lot, not the city’s general fund.
New Orleans attorney and corporation spokesman Joseph Bruno says the original plan called for an adjacent hotel.
“You know it’s lovely to come visit the monuments but it’s even more lovely to be able to be a part of the monument," Bruno says. "Sit there and have a little cup of cappuccino have a little drink, you know, watching the waterfall. That’s our goal .”
The first phase includes landscaping and restroom upgrades. Fountain repairs are in phase two.
The first segment is expected to be finished this summer.