Concrete Opportunities: Reimagining Parking Lots as Markets


Shoppers at Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market, which is held in a parking lot in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Events

Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Events


Most parking lots and garages are not final destinations. Rather, they are simply convenient places for people to leave their cars while working, shopping, dining, and conducting the quotidian day-to-day of life. But New York City-based entrepreneur Alan Boss identified another use for parking lots and structures – transform these underutilized parking areas into weekend marketplaces.

In 1976, Boss established a market in a parking lot on an undesirable block on West 25th Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The market began with 11 vendors and was open every Sunday from April to October. Over time, its success helped transform the neighborhood from a place notorious for prostitution into a destination for residents and tourists. Boss currently has several markets in the Chelsea area that are open year-round on weekends, attracting more than 650 vendors.

In 1994, Boss created the Antiques Garage – an indoor market in a parking garage on West 25th Street that was vacant on weekends. When he pitched his idea for a market to the garage owners, they saw it as an economic windfall that would provide them with weekend revenue. Initially, the garage had special appeal to vendors whose wares needed protection from the elements. Today, the two-floor flea market features over 100 vendors selling antiques, decorative arts, and furniture, and it has a reputation for drawing tastemakers that include art critics, curators, designers, and celebrities.

Boss continues to expand his empire of lots: he also runs the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market on West 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. Boss has positioned these markets as must-see destinations offering interesting, high quality goods that can’t be found elsewhere. He believes “there will always be a need for markets.” And he believes that you have to identify and seize opportunities while realizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all market – each depends on seasonality, scheduling, and location. It’s a question of sizing up what your community needs and figuring out what type of market will create the best attraction – antiques, farmers markets, food markets, art fairs. To Boss, it’s about tapping into local resources and “creating exciting and desirable destinations.”