South End Open Market Plans to Thrive Beneath I-93 Overpass

Vendors are ecstatic about the 2017 move, and you should be too.

Rendering Courtesy MassDOT

Rendering Courtesy MassDOT

Yesterday, in response to the Globe‘s report that the two parties comprising the South End cultural phenomenon known as SoWa would split at the end of the month, we declared that the South End Open Market’s planned move to a lot beneath the I-93 overpass in 2017 would make it “suck.” This, predictably, upset some folks.

“No matter where the market is, we need stay positive and support it. I feel like so many people’s livelihoods are dependent upon this market,” says Nathan William Murrell, a mixed-media artist who has been a vendor at the market on and off since 2007. “The market will suck if we make it suck. If we decide before that it’s all doomed and it’s going to be shitty from now on, that is the way it’s going to be. I just want to keep going at it with an air of positivity.”

The schism is the result of a dispute between New England Open Markets owner Chris Masci and developer Mario Nicosia of GTI Properties. Masci’s market, allied with Ink Block developer National Development, will temporarily move to a lot on Travelers Street for 2016 before settling underneath the nearby I-93 overpass, in Lot 5 of MassDOT’s Infra-Space 1 area, in 2017.

“The difference between where we are now and where we plan to be, both in the contingency lot and Lot 5, is that we’re able to have all three markets in one lot,” Masci tells Boston magazine. The popular artisans, farmers, and food trucks markets will be side-by-side—the market’s original configuration from 2003-09, before splitting up across Harrison Avenue. This, Murrell says, will be a boon for the market.

“The energy when everybody’s together—you can’t beat it. It’s a sense a community,” says Trish Kozub, whose handmade jewelry business iDazz Custom Design has operated at the market for the last 10 years. “We got split up, which was a bummer. We’re all looking forward to being reunited.”

“In the past, being all divided or separated, customers would complain. I think the move is fantastic,” says America Cutter, who sells handmade jewelry at both Masci’s South End and Greenway markets. “Now customers won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything.”

Nearly all of the vendors we spoke with expressed, in equal parts, their loyalty to Masci, as well as their disappointment with the media’s coverage of the move. “The consensus is, we were all upset by the articles we saw, and we’re all standing behind Chris. We’re loyal to him. Many of us, this is how we earn our living. We’re not hawkers, we’re professionals. We’re artisans.”

“A lot of the vendors who have been going to market with him for years, including myself, we’re going to continue to support him,” Cutter says. “There’s nothing but excitement.”

Masci says National Development has been in contact with other South End developers to would be willing to give up portions of their lots for customer parking. In addition to public art installations, green space, and the foundation for an eventual walkway along the Fort Point Channel, Infra-Space 1 will also include a dog park.

“We’re absolutely encouraged by that because it’s such a dog-centric neighborhood,” Masci says. “Everybody brings their dogs to the market.”

Murrell says he remembers having similar conversations the last time the market changed its layout. But when the dust settles, he believes the market will be stronger than ever.

“The vision that they have seems pretty awesome,” he says. They want to create this unique space. And what can start as a grimy underpass can turn into something amazing quite quickly when the right people are doing it.”

“And I’d way rather be in a park-like setting under an overpass than a parking lot any day.”