Conversion Therapy: Shopping Mall To Living Space

February 18, 2016

By Tab Byrum

You hear more and more talk about how large indoor shopping malls are going the way of the dodo bird, that people don’t want to be cooped up inside but would rather be able to walk from shop to shop in the sunshine, I personally like a good indoor mall especially in a place like Oklahoma where the weather is never the same for very long and you have 25 mph sustained winds on any given day as well as ice storms, tornadoes, and blistering heat. So if some indoor malls are going to be closing what’s to become of the large structures on large pieces of land, if what’s happening in Providence, Rhode Island is any indication they may be turned into homes.

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Westminster Arcade opened in 1828 as America’s first indoor shopping mall and stayed in business until 2008 when it was forced to close due to lack of business and was known as Providence Arcade, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and couldn’t be torn down so its owner decided a conversion was needed to living space. The former commercial spaces aren’t very big so they’re being converted into Micro Apartments, a trend started in Japan and some European countries years ago. The apartments are smaller than most hotel rooms and measure from 225 to 300 square feet with rent starting at $550 a month. The retail spaces on the ground floor have been kept for retail and there are some larger units in the mall as well as laundry facilities. Would you do it? We’ve often joked about wanting to live at the mall but now the possibility might become a reality. 

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The Westminster Arcade in it’s busier days. 

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A look at the inside of one of the Micro Apartments. Living space in the front, kitchen in the middle and sleeping space and bathroom at the back. 

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Here’s a look at the floorplan for one floor of the mall conversion. As you can see there are 5 apartments on this floor with quite a bit of space and guest quarters.

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One article I read said many of the apartments are being rented by young people just out of college and getting started in life and also by people who love outside of Providence but want a place to stay when they’re in town. 

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A look at the first floor where some retail and restaurants have opened as well as the two floors above that house the micro apartments. 

I definitely think this is a great idea, this mall is smaller because it was built almost 200 years ago but today’s malls house much larger spaces which could be converted large apartments or broken up into medium sized homes. Many malls have covered parking or a parking garage and you have a built in walking track year round. Maybe this is THE way to the future. 

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