Living in America's first mall

Posted at 4:10 PM, May 24, 2017

For almost half a century shopping malls were a part of American culture, but it wasn’t until the last decade when online shopping took over that malls became a dying breed. One mall in Rhode Island is defying the dead mall statistic and re-inventing itself in a very unique way.

The Arcade in Providence, Rhode Island is 188 years old and is known as the first mall in America. With the help of architect, Michael Abbott, the once dying mall has been converted into an apartment complex. 

All the shops on the second and third floor have been turned into micro-lofts. Owner Evan Granoff began losing money on the property years ago and needed to sell it or make a big change. He took what he saw in Japan and decided to convert the top two floors of the mall into living quarters. Granoff said, “every little store front became its own little unit.” Meanwhile, the bottom floor remained shops. 

Some of the micro-lofts are only 300 square feet, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Rosanna Ortiz. She lives and works at the Arcade and says, “it's the ultimate convenience.” Her commute is just 2 flights of stairs.

Ortiz believe the Arcade brings so much more to people than a regular mall ever could. “I think right now, in this day in age people are really yearning for that community. And their yearning to know the person at the coffee shop and know the owners of the building and I think there is a certain romanticism in that.” 

Although, the Arcade can’t be torn down because of its history, Abbott says there are other ways to salvage a dying mall. 

“There are a lot of empty malls all over the place. A lot of them are being recycled as municipal centers or town halls are moving into a mall.”

Abbott believes the success comes from creativity.