By the time February rolls around, the bright-eyed longing for a winter wonderland has faded with the tangled string of Christmas lights, now stuffed away in a closet.

Luckily, city dwellers have an oasis to run to, when cold weather brings the blues. Welcome to Park Here, the indoor pop-up park, at Openhouse Gallery devoted exclusively to providing New Yorkers with a summer-like environment during the dark months of winter. Enjoy lounging on plush grass and bean bags while sampling tasty treats from local food trucks. For those feeling extra productive, high-speed WiFi is also available.

“I was passing by Park Here,” commented Park Here visitor Bruna Calheiros, a student at NYC. “It was really cold outside and the park looked very warm and cozy.”

“It’s good to have a spot like this in the winter, because there aren’t any spots left since it’s too cold to be wandering on the streets, or in real parks,” Calheiros continued. “I just wish it was bigger, opened until a little later — 8pm at least — and for the whole winter.”

Pop-ups like Park Here are becoming more and more common; these days, “pop-up” no longer refers to annoying advertisements on your computer screen or books that you read as a kid. The trendy usage of the phrase, now loosely describes any business from restaurants and retailers to ice skating rinks that temporarily appear in an unused space, such as vacant storefronts or parking lots. Food trucks are the most widely known aspect of this phenomenon; however, creative types are constantly thinking up new ways to efficiently utilize space, and hopefully, make a little money.

One of these is Jonathan Daou, founder and creative director of Openhouse Gallery. Daou is something of an artist when it comes to blending marketing and pop-ups: local vendors like Filled With Sweets, Nolita Mart & Espresso Bar, The Jam Stand and Lizzmonade, serve visitors treats in the park on certain days of the week; big name brands like Rolling Stone and Fatboy have partnered with the gallery to plan a music festival and provide bean bag chairs; and various other companies have provided the materials for indoor sunshine, lawn, landscaping and scent to complete the full sensory experience of the park.

“What brand do we feel has a good product that fits with what we want to have?” Daou said. “We go to the brand, after we come up with the idea, and we say, ‘We think you fit in.’ And if they see the light, they see the light.”

“It’s got to go by our rules,” Daou added. “This is the story that we’re trying to communicate: it’s the consumer’s rules.”

For Park Here, this marketing strategy has worked. In its second year, the indoor park has seen nearly no end to visitors: weekends can bring 1,000 people walking through the door every day.

“It’s successful now, two years in a row, in a city where people are really fickle,” Daou said. “People don’t want to see things repeated. But people keep coming back.”

As a result, the gallery’s staff has learned a lot about what it takes to manage a public park.

“It’s like a social experiment because people actually feel like it’s a public park and [that] they can do whatever they want,” Daou said. “You can’t tell them what to do, even though you tell them that it’s my space. And that’s what is really amazing about it.”

Some examples include mothers changing dirty diapers, kids jumping on fake rocks, and dogs doing their business in the grass. All of these normal activities associated with an outdoor park become problematic for an indoor gallery.

“Sometimes people will just walk in with a dog or two and think it’s OK,” Director of Content Greg Spielberg said.

“It was very, very interesting as a social experiment because we refrained from really–despite the fact that it was our space and we could do whatever we wanted with it–putting controls on people,” Daou said.

In coming years, Daou and his team plan to snowball off of Park Here for future pop-ups in the gallery, leading to other indoor environments.

“Right now we’re working on a design for Costa Rica Board of Tourism,” Spielberg said. “That would be an amazing pop-up experience. This summer we’ll likely have a beach for all the NYC folk who never make it out to the beach.”

Further ideas include spawning indoor parks in other cities and connecting the parks’ visitors by Skype.

“We’re going to try and make it so that people can sit in these environments and connect with each other audio visually,” Daou said. “There’s no intention here except for the novelty that people who are escaping winter in these parks feel a sort of camaraderie with others.”

In other words, the future looks bright for pop-up spaces like Park Here.

“People fundamentally want things that are useful and functional at the end of the day,” Daou said. “They’ll go for novelty, but novelty wears off so quickly in a city like New York.”

Stop by Openhouse Gallery at 201 Mulberry Street. Park Here will be open until February 15th. For more information, visit or

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