KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Huge crowds are expected for First Friday in the West Bottoms, as shoppers from around the nation are attracted to one of the most talked about vintage flea markets in the nation. But some are upset that shoppers may go elsewhere because free parking is disappearing.
The West Bottoms has become home to some of the best antique shops and vintage vendors in the nation. And on First Fridays, huge crowds come to the area to shop and enjoy the retro atmosphere.
For the last four or five years, there has been plenty of free parking in this industrial district, as visitors often parked underneath bridges and viaducts, areas many assumed to be public property.
But on August 7, businesses were shocked to see those parking areas roped off, and workers charging visitors $10 to park.
"We've got a little tricky situation going down here," said Chrysalyn Huff, owner of Restoration Emporium. "They have decided to charge for parking, so we've got a situation where under the bridges, which we are pretty sure is public property, has turned into a paid parking lot. And then some of the private lots are going to be paid."
FOX 4 checked and learned that the parking areas under highway bridges and viaducts are owned by the state of Missouri. But the Missouri Department of Transportation confirms that land has been leased for years to a company called Full Moon Productions, which operates haunted houses in the west bottoms. MoDOT says it is legal to charge drivers to park in these areas.
Bill Powell, security director for Full Moon Productions, says the company is charging for parking during First Fridays on the land it leases from the state, just as it does during Halloween. Flea marketers worry the change will halt growth in the West Bottoms and prompt shoppers to look elsewhere.
Amber Arnett Bequeaith, Vice President of Full Moon Productions Inc., sent the following statement Friday about the West Bottoms parking fees.
“With success comes responsibility. The West Bottoms Business District Association is pleased that First Friday Warehouse Weekends has become the premier vintage and antique festival of the nation. We work diligently to provide a safe, clean and a fun family atmosphere for those attending. In working with our members, we tested the $10 charge for parking in just three lots and voted to continue this element on going. The modest sum collected helps cover a portion of the cost for trash clean up, roaming security, permits and parking lot attendants in all the parking lots located in The West Bottoms. In addition, there are many labor costs involved in creating a festival atmosphere. Bringing down live-bands, food trucks, setting out tables and chairs, even holiday events are part of the Warehouse Weekend atmosphere. Full Moon Productions, Inc. is known for creating large, fun events in Kansas City, as well as, nationally haunted attractions. The continued revitalization of the area must to be monitored and evolve in order to handle the cost and crowds involved. There are still many lots that will remain FREE but if you are looking for a VIP experience, quick in and out or have a handicap sticker, the paid lots will help serve those customers, as well. We invite everyone to come down and enjoy the “original” Kansas City!”