SoWa Saturday Proposal Still Hung up at City Hall

By Seth Daniel

After a long and involved meeting with the Old Dover Neighborhood Association last month concerning the expansion of the SoWa Market to Saturdays, the eventual overwhelming neighborhood supports seemed to be the conclusion of the community discussion.

A 23-7 vote seemed to carry the proposal after owner Mario Nicosia made some concessions on parking for the neighborhood and retailers pleaded about the importance of the market to their business.

But it was far from the end.

Since that time, the proposal, which went to the Public Events Committee – a small committee based out of the City’s Tourism and Special Events office – has been holding up the application so that Nicosia and his company, GTI Properties, would do further outreach to the community.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said the committee has essentially tabled the proposal. They indicated the Committee has not made a decision or recommendation yet. SoWa Market was asked to address questions and concerns within the community before any approval could be granted.

The City confirmed that a meeting with the Committee has finally been scheduled again to consider the proposal this coming Monday.

“We eagerly look forward to our 14th consecutive season of celebrating the region’s best artisans, farmers and foodies,” read a statement from GTI this week. “The market brings vibrancy to our neighborhood and supports the many artists, small businesses and entrepreneurs that make the South End so unique.”

The meeting on Monday will feature the submission of a number of letters of support for expanding the Market from its current Sunday event to include Saturday also. It would run for approximately six months of the year.

Developer John Holland, who has the Jordan Lofts across the street, said he is in support.

“The event is well-managed; it contributes to the character of the emerging mixed use neighborhood, livens up the street on the weekends, and brings a diverse group of people together to a n event that is always peacefully attended,” he wrote. “I believe opening the event on Saturday is a clear benefit for the neighborhood and for the city.”

Brian Piccini, a resident of the South End and owner of Boston Chops, said he thinks it is good for business and good for the community.

“Since the beginning of human civilization, the epicenters of great cities have been full of markets,” he wrote. “I find it terribly ironic that South End residents would want to live in the city of Boston but not want more markets. I urge you to support the SOWA Markets on Saturday so we may be lucky enough to retain the artist’s vitality in the South End.”

That was essentially the mood of the Old Dover meeting last month, when residents and business owners slowly came around to nearly full support – reflected in the 23-7 vote.

However, there were vocal opponents who were not convinced.

Long time Old Dover member and current secretary, John Connelly, expressed how he lives next door in the condo building and is held hostage.

“I work all week and if I want to run an errand or go food shopping, I’m doing that on Saturday because I can’t when the Market is operating,” he said at last month’s meeting. “I didn’t buy a condo across the street from a festival every weekend on warm days. I think it’s too much to ask to be open on Saturdays too…It’s not fear of the unknown here; it’s fear of the known. If Sundays were handled better, I think Saturday could be a no-brainer.”

Contacted this week, Connelly said he still is opposed to the Saturday application, and said he had nothing more to add than what he said at the meeting.

Opposition to the proposal seems to be centered in the condo building there and nearby, in particular.

GTI Properties planned to being operating the new Saturday venture in late April, depending on the weather.

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