Little Italy is looking to expand — in the Bronx. The Belmont neighborhood in the Bronx is famous for having its own Little Italy where many shops and restaurants have been run by the same Italian families for generations. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the neighborhood is now looking to social media and newspapers to re-position the area to attract new affluent clientele and residents.
Last year, the district spent $40,000 on new newspaper advertising campaigns and developed multiple websites and a Facebook page to help attract the kinds of young professionals the area is so hungry for.
Frank Franz, chairman of the Belmont Business Improvement District said that long-term goals for the area are to attract young, creative and upwardly mobile residents, which he sees as inevitable. “We emphasize our Italian cultural heritage because that’s what we’re known for, but we also want to appeal in a broader way,” he said.
The vast majority of the people patronizing the Bronx’s Little Italy — which spans a 10 block area concentrated near Arthur Avenue and East 187th Street — come from outside the neighborhood. A 2011 environmental impact report prepared for the business improvement district showed that most of the area’s shoppers live 5 or more miles away, while a massive 49 percent of restaurant patrons and 34 percent of bakery buyers live 20 or more miles away.
And these shoppers are affluent. The median household income of Belmont’s shoppers is $68,518, compared to just $27,306 in Belmont’s ZIP Code, according to census data cited by the Journal.
“We need that young energy that sparks interest in a neighborhood by bringing in new music and entertainment,” Franz said. “This is going to be like the Village in 100 years.” [WSJ] —Christopher Cameron