Oh Man, SoWa Is Going to Suck in 2017

Who wants to peruse trinkets beneath the I-93 overpass?

food trucks crowds

Photo by Emily Phares

There are few better ways to spend a Sunday morning in Boston, specifically in the summer and early-autumn months, than traipsing around SoWa, food truck fare in-hand, peeping the artisan doo-dads and simmering with dog envy.

But the South End markets colloquially known as “SoWa” are actually an amalgamation. There’s New England Open Markets LLC—owned by Chris Masci and comprised of art, clothing, and produce vendors—and the properties south of Washington, owned by South End developer Mario Nicosia, whose brick buildings house the vintage market, artist studios, galleries, and restaurants.

Together, they form a wonderful union that attracts an average of 10,000 people a week. Unfortunately, that union finally imploded this month, reports the Globe:

Chris Masci…will temporarily relocate to a site near the Ink Block development. His vendors will eventually move to a grimy parcel under the nearby Interstate 93 overpass that, while slated for refurbishment, will almost certainly test his vendors’ loyalty and his customers’ appetite for industrial chic…

Masci and Nicosia haven’t spoken since a shouting match last spring. The bitter falling out includes three lawsuits, dueling trademark claims, and mutual accusations of greed. In other words, the market got caught up in the very thing it was trying to eschew: the cutthroat side of business.


Masci and Nicosia’s falling out, the Globe explains, was sparked by a copyright dispute over the names “SoWa Open Market,” trademarked by Nicosia in 2013 and used informally by Masci, and “South End Open Market.” The two men communicate with one another solely through lawyers.

What does this mean for the average urban dandy looking for his banh-mi and reclaimed-wood sconces? Nicosia said he plans to establish an outdoor market to rival Masci’s “South End Open Market at SoWa,” which will move into a temporary location at Travelers Street next year. Masci joined forces with National Development, builders to the Ink Block complex, who granted him use of the parking lot adjacent to Ming’s Market.

After that, the South End Open Market at SoWa will move underneath the goddamn freeway.

In 2017, Masci plans to move his markets to a state parcel underneath the I-93 deck that National Development has leased and will turn into a parking lot with a small park.

Masci insisted all his vendors will follow him, saying he plans to lower his fees, which range from $50 to $200, depending on the vendor. National Development, he promised, has impressive plans to make the lot under the highway more inviting. But Nicosia disparaged the highway site as suffering from “excruciating” noise and a lack of foot traffic. He pledged to “undercut” Masci’s rates and said GTI would be “much easier” as a landlord.

Let’s consult a map.

That goldenrod bundle of highway? Beneath that. That’s where you’ll be able to purchase burlap prints of seashells and Fenway Park. National Development could build a park and a stick a cold-brew spewing fountain in the center of it, and it won’t change the fact that it’s still underneath the goddamn freeway.

Please, Mssrs. Masci and Nicosia. Bury the hatchet. Have a beer summit, a wood-fired pizza summit, a custom pop-art dog portrait summit—whatever it takes. We have a dwindling number of cool things in this city of ours, and we can’t afford to lose another.