US’s Oldest Mall Opens Up as Micro-Apartment Complex

Sep 23, 2014 by

In February of 2013, we took a look at the Providence Arcade. Developer Evan Granoff was taking the top two floors of the 1828-built building–the US’s oldest indoor shopping mall–and converting them into micro-apartments. The 48 units, which range from 225-450 sq ft, were completed last October. There is already a waitlist to live in them.

The reasons for the popularity seem obvious. The tiny apartments are well-designed for the lightweight living single person, with built-in storage and cozy lounge areas. There are enough personal amenities to perform most of life’s essential tasks like a private bathroom and basic kitchen. And there are enough shared amenities like a laundry room, bike storage and a game room for the extras. The covered arcade that the apartments look out into provides a very cool setting to live. And–almost certainly the most important factor–rents for a furnished apartment begin at $550.

The innovative project earned the 2013 AIA RI Design Award for Historic Preservation, the 2014 RI Smart Growth Award for Outstanding Smart Growth Projects, the 2014 Rhody Award for Historic Preservation, and was featured at REHAB 2014, an international preservation conference held in Portugal.

To our eyes, Providence Arcade as well as the Northwest’s micro-apartments underscore the need for non-subsidized (i.e. no bureaucratic hurdles to clear to rent), clean, affordable, centrally-located housing. Apparently for many, large apartment size is a pretty low priority–at least weighed against these other criteria. The fact that the Arcade uses such an interesting, existing, historic structure makes it all the cooler. We hope to see many more projects like it.

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