NEWORLEANS- The city will spend $280,000 to renovate the Piazza d'Italia, the downtown fountain and outdoor plaza which pays tribute to the contributions of New Orleans Italian-American community, city officials announced Thursday.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and officials with the Canal Street Development Corp. announced that crews will soon begin renovations on the Piazza d'Italia located just steps off of Poydras Street, in an area bounded by Tchoupitoulas, Lafayette, Poydras and South Peters.

The first phase of improvements totaling in excess of $250,000 will include development of more Italian-style landscaping, creating a green screen for visual privacy between the Piazza and an adjacent parking lot, and development of ADA-compliant restrooms with a new air conditioning system.

Funds for this project come from the Piazza d'Italia Enterprise Fund.

'This is not going to be funded with city general fund dollars,' Landrieu said in an afternoon news conference at the site. 'The dollars will be coming out of fees generated by the parking that is around this area.'

The city is hoping the renovations to the small park and fountain will increase pedestrian and visitor traffic in that area.

Architect Charles Moore and others designed the Piazza d'Italia, which opened in 1978, during the administration of Mayor Moon Landrieu, the current mayor's father. The late Joe Maselli, a longtime champion of local Italian-American history, was among those who spearheaded the work to introduce the plaza in the 1970s.

In noting its importance to the local Italian-American community, Mayor Mitch Landrieu pointed out that he has Italian heritage on his mother's side.

Phase I of the renovations is expected to be completed this summer. The second phase is currently in design and will restore the fountain to its full operational intent and repair other project elements.

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