December 7, 2016

First U.S. Mall Turned into Micro Homes

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First U.S. Mall Turned into Micro Homes

Known as America’s first indoor shopping mall, Rhode Island’s Providence Arcade has gotten a makeover. The nearly 200-year-old downtown building closed in 2008 after failing to attract enough commercial tenants. But now the mall has been reopened, transformed to house a growing trend in real estate: Micro apartments.

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The three floors of shops have been transformed into homes, with a mixture of commercial space still present. In a $7 million project that wrapped up in October 2013, developers retained retail spaces on the ground floor to rent out to businesses. They enclosed the businesses with bay windows on the lower floor so that the sound wouldn’t disturb residents living on upper floors.

On the second and third floors, the mall now houses 38 rental units, measuring from 225 to 300 square feet. The micro apartments include a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and built-in storage. 

In 1944, the mall was nearly torn down, but preservations fought to have it spared. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

"It had become economically obsolete," says J. Michael Abbott, a principal at Northeast Collaborative Architects. "When it was a full shopping center of all three floors, it just wasn't working. Shops were opening and closing all the time."

The micro apartments have been attracting attention particularly among young professionals, Abbott says, noting that there's now a waiting list for prospective tenants. Rent starts at $550 a month.

Source: “America’s First Shopping Mall Is Now Stuffed with Micro Homes,” (Aug. 29, 2014)