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Convoy District Looks To San Diego's Little Italy For Inspiration

September 14, 2016 1:14 p.m.

Convoy District Looks To San Diego's Little Italy For Inspiration

GUEST:

Ping Wang, co-founder, Convoy District Partnership

Related Story: Convoy District Looks To San Diego's Little Italy For Inspiration

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Turning an old at the neighborhood into a destination for others and a nice place to live in hangout has been done in San Diego. Little Italy is proof of that now there is another part that aspires to do something very much a same. Tom fudge has the story of the convoy district.
The convoy street corridor in Kearny Mesa is a flat traffic filled section of San Diego that is industrial buildings and car dealerships and big-box stores. There is also a critical mass of Asian business mostly restaurants that make it the closest thing San Diego has to a true Asiatown. Ping Wang is a founder of the convoy district.
You've got dessert places like -- Icekimo. You have revolving sushi so that is a great starting basis.
He said convoy can do better. If you can imagine and just hop from one shot -- shop to another without having to drive and with nicer sidewalks and a little bit more green and some trees the central island beautifying that and having banners to sort of tell you where you wore.
He says add to that some crosswalks and bike paths and maybe some housing developments on convoy can turn into a walkable place where people want to stick around for a while. A place that's on the map for locals and for tourist. The place that comes up again and again is Little Italy North of downtown San Diego. By the 1990s Little Italy, had become little more than a field a parking lots for downtown office buildings.
No stop sign so people would use an on-ramp to Interstate 5.
He has managed abysses affairs of Little Italy for quite a while. Today after years of planning Little Italy is restaurants, new housing, cozy streets and plenty of tourist. The transformation of the district involved a complex web of assessment districts and plenty of of available land. He says it started with the most modest of goals.
Our first goal was to get trash cans. We had won trashcan for 48 blocks. We had no mechanism for sweeping sidewalks of picking up trash. In the convoy district it is similar start with the small stuff but there are plenty of challenges on the horizon. Of all uses it is creating housing that was the biggest question Mark. The district is zoned commercial industrial. That means creating mixed use of elements would require zoning variances. Chris Cate is the city Council.
We understand that we are growing as the city and that we will have more demand for housing. So how do you balance that with other types of businesses that are close by?
You said whatever path it takes he agrees the convoy district is often a great start.
I think the advantage of convoy is the content. They have become the center of Asian capital and Asian food in the County of San Diego.
Back at the Jasmine Seafood Restaurant a customer is waiting for a table. Abuses is RE same convoy district change when he first came here the restaurant patrons were strictly Asian people. Soon he noticed Asian people started bring in their non-Asian friends.
The last five years or so I've been seeing people coming here on their own so it's funny how it has grown.
We will see of convoy can grow more.
Joining me now is Ping Wang . Welcome to the program.
Thank you for having me.
Last time we talked it was a couple of years ago and we were starting a special night market event in the convoy district to bring people and interest to the area. I'm wondering the that boost a profile?
Absolutely. In fact, we were expecting somewhere about a couple of thousand and in the end almost 20,000 or more -- we actually lost count. That brought attention to convoy district, which helped our efforts but also to the greater community in general.
Tom explain how little Italy gained their status about a go to destination. What lessons are you using from that experience?
I think what they did at Little Italy is a fantastic. So we are taking a lot of those lessons whether it be really organizing the neighborhood, creating consensus, and also taking just simple steps like beautification and having a voice and making yourself known and having a vision to work towards it as well.
How do make the district more walkable? That is a real problem.
We have been working with city staff and local businesses to do a number of things. Doing banners and fixing signage and improving parking situation. We've also reach out to other people to improve the mobility of transportation.
We heard a term in his piece some of people he spoke to refer to this area as Asiatown or trying to create a Asiatown . Would you like the area to start being referred to as that?
I think that is already in formally the people referred to. I think we also of the convoy district would like having a geography and where the largest of Asian businesses in the city. In that regard we RE -- we like the name convoy the district because of the geography in that regard. We are welcoming anyone to come and explore.
What you think the significance is of having a cultural epicenter for Asian Americans in San Diego?
We have one of the largest pan Asian businesses whether be Chinese, Japanese, Korean. That is RE fairly unique. We are also the largest city in the United States and there is almost one in Fife San Diegans that has Asian groups. All of this adds to having an important cluster for people to come and participate in understand because we are here at the gateway to the Pacific rim. It is bettering communication, understanding of the cultures and it is helping both culturally as well as economically to improve small this is is and it will expand tourism. Not only are we a Navy town and have great places like this but we want to have cultural gems like Little Italy.
Finally, what would you say is the biggest challenge to being able to establish the convoy district the way you would like to?
First and foremost, what of the things is a diversity so not only are we not seeing ethnic groups and we speak different languages and especially a month older generations. There are still language gaps. So we are working through that. Will be able to associate with each other and a lot more cohesive and we love working with each other. There's I diversity there but there's also I diversity and types of businesses. We are not just restaurants. We also have car dealerships and other businesses. There all part of the community and we want to build consensus. We want to continue to build that momentum in a Tweet we that respects everyone in all the different groups.
I have been speaking what Ping Wang. He is cofounder of the convoy district . Thank you very much.
Thank you.