Should part of Commercial Drive be officially named "Little Italy"?

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      Chinatown, Punjabi Market, Little Saigon. Why not Little Italy?

      NPA councillor Melissa De Genova wants to see a portion of Commercial Drive be officially given this moniker in recognition of Vancouver's Italian cultural heritage.

      She's proposing the following council motion ahead of this Sunday's Italian Day on the Drive:


      1. Vancouver’s extraordinary cultural diversity is greatly valued by the people of our city, and those who visit our city, and is seen as a source of creativity and strength;
      2. Commercial Drive has been the focal point of Italian history and heritage in Vancouver for over 50 years and is widely considered to be Vancouver’s original ‘Little Italy’;
      3. Italian immigrants to Vancouver who settled in the northern Commercial Drive area the 1940s and 1950s are widely credited with revitalizing the neighbourhood;
      4. Although many Italian businesses also sprang up in the Hastings and Nanaimo area in the 1960’s, the cultural core of Vancouver’s Italian community remained in the Commercial Drive area;
      5. Commercial Drive continues to be a vibrant cultural and business centre in East Vancouver with at least thirty businesses over a seven block radius and over 80% of the buildings continuing to be Italian-owned and/or operated;
      6. Commercial Drive is host to ‘Italian Day on the Drive’ celebrating our city’s Italian heritage and culture and the many contributions made to Vancouver by Italian immigrants and their children;
      7. ‘Italian Day on the Drive’ is the most popular celebration of Italian Culture in Vancouver drawing an estimated 350,000 plus attendees from all over Vancouver in 2014;
      8. Major cities such as Montreal, Toronto, New York and Boston all enjoy the economic, tourism and cultural benefits of having areas of their respective cities officially designated and recognized as “Little Italy”.


      1. The City of Vancouver formally recognize and designate a portion of Commercial Drive as ‘Little Italy’ in recognition of the city's Italian cultural heritage, subject to consultation with the community and Commercial Drive businesses, business groups and other stakeholders.

        FURTHER THAT Council direct Staff to report back with the results of the consultation within six months with recommendations for an official location for ‘Little Italy’ on Commercial Drive.

      Your thoughts?




      Jun 9, 2015 at 1:08pm


      The Drive hasn't been 'Little Italy' for decades. The only real remnant are the Italian landowners and business folk, few of whom live in the neighbourhood. North Burnaby if anywhere, is 'Little Italy' .

      The Italian experience on The Drive was and is an important part of it's history, but only a part. Many peoples and communities before after and since the Italian 'period' were as numerous and contributed as much. What made The Drive unique has always been the extraordinary mix in the area, and an extraordinary tolerant and friendly neighbourhood that belonged to everyone from Italian, Portuguese, and Native grandmas to freaks of all kind and of every decadal fashion. If the Italian community somehow has a greater visibility, it was and is due to the disproportionate number of Italian businesses and landowners in the neighbourhood. Yet even this is much less than previously.

      The Drive is simply The Drive. It is not 'little' anything, and needs no other vote motivated and developer driven title in addition. The Drive is simply enough.

      Or would the NPA business representative rather have a block by block neighbourhood naming to honour every people from the First Nations to the Vietnamese community? The Lesbian community? The Labour community?

      Nonsense. The Drive it is, and The Drive it should remain. And frankly, only those who live here should have a say if. Not vote-seekers or developers.


      Jun 9, 2015 at 1:47pm

      "Little Italy" seems like a misnomer. How about "Microscopic Italy".

      Paddy Iswrong

      Jun 9, 2015 at 2:07pm

      Only residents should have a say? The businesses that operate directly on commercial drive and pay significant property taxes to the City, much higher than the residents on the backstreets, deserve a say on how their business district is branded. And just because something is now ecclectic doesn't mean you can't honour a significant cultural presence and history. Commercial Drive is very much Italian as Little Saigon on Kingsway is Vietnamese for example. And in the Meatpacking District in New York - they don't actually pack a lot of meat there anymore, the name reflects history. We honour and celebrate our diverse cultures in Vancouver and that's what makes the City great.

      Randy Rinaldo

      Jun 9, 2015 at 2:25pm

      It’s a very inclusive idea and everyone will benefit, not just the Italian community. Vancouver isn’t a little city anymore. Big cities like Montreal, Toronto, New York and Boston all enjoy the economic, tourism and cultural benefits of having areas designated as ‘Little Italy’.
      We have our own ‘Little Italy’ right here in Vancouver but it’s never been officially recognized. It would go a long way toward shaking Vancouver’s ‘no fun city’ reputation.


      Jun 9, 2015 at 3:20pm

      PaddyIsWrong: The businesses already have a disproportionate representation at City Hall... we don't have neighbourhood responsible councillors, but they have area designated BSA reps for every neighbourhood. And, something you business owners seem to conveniently forget, you are here to serve US, not we residents here toi service you. Of course business owners should have a chair at the table, but only a few.

      Edward Bernays

      Jun 9, 2015 at 3:56pm

      I think every block of Commercial Drive could be "Little" something. How about Little Canada.

      ursa minor

      Jun 9, 2015 at 4:19pm

      This amounts to retrograde social cleansing on the part of the NPA to appease their dying off base of intolerant supporters. They don't like how funky and alternative Commercial Drive has become so they want to reclaim it in their collective imagination as a harmless enclave of inoffensive hard working "ethnics" who endlessly strive to be part of the system rather than challenge it.


      Jun 9, 2015 at 4:30pm

      If you want to take some kind of negative, divisive, us vs. them, business = evil approach to this the. fill your boots I guess. But in my view it's not about "them serving you" or "you serving them", it's about everyone in the community being recognized for the important part they play in the identity and success of the neighborhood in a cooperative way. The businesses on commercial are not big multinationals, they're small mom and pops where you buy your deli meats, take out a pizza, fix your shoes... This shouldn't be as business-resident polarizing as you've framed it. And it is possible for someone to disagree with you without being self interested -I am not a commercial drive business owner, but I don't believe their voice should be ignored as you alluded to in your first post. I'm just someone who supports recognizing the cultural identity and history of different neighborhoods in the City.


      Jun 9, 2015 at 4:53pm

      Commercial Drive hasn't been Little Italy for decades: it has been lefty-hipster heaven since the early 80's. Remember the range of "collectives" and "cooperatives" that lined the streets north of 1st? La Quena was where I first heard and rebutted the demand to be "more politically correct" and that was during the bad old days of evil socreds running the province and the COPE/ Harcourt group running the city during a break from NPA rule. How about boycotting Joe's because he didn't like lesbians kissing in his place? Lots of memories but I think the last time it was Little Italy was after Italy won the 1982 World Cup.

      Josephine Khan Vitaro

      Jun 9, 2015 at 6:05pm

      My parents settled near the Drive in the 1960's, the Drive always was " little ITALY" to me. I grew up there and cherished many memories shopping down the strip, eating at the restaurants or buying a gelato. It's changed somewhat, but will always be Little ITALY to me and my family. When attending Italian day every June, the Drive comes alive with the rich history being displayed by all the buisness establishments. It brings me back to when I was young, roaming around with my parents while they shopped. The Drive SHOULD be recognized as "Little Italy" for many families in the 60's and 70's settled and contributed to its rich culture. One fond memory was visiting our weekly butcher who memorized our order, and delivered it to our house after his shift. Our Italian deli ( Joes imported foods) who specialized our orders always. ( Manitoba Furnature) where we bought our couches. And Kelena Shoes, where my mom bought our whole family shoes still is in operation. I now take my kids down the Drive and share my stories with them. The Drive is filled with diversity now, and I think it's great!! I know it will always be considered "Little Italy " to many, and rightfully so!!!!