Refurbishing America's Shopping Mall

One thing about a recession is that it accelerates the demise of dying trends and struggling establishments. In this case, it is America’s beloved shopping malls, which have been slowly in decline since its peak popularity in 1990. Now, in the wake of the 2008 economic catastrophe, American cities are riddled with these abandoned shopping meccas, from the mall to big box stores and shopping strips, whose oversize parking lots are equally as useless as the spaces themselves. The question is, how can we effectively repurpose these spaces?

A perfect example after the break...

The Westminster Arcade via Wikipedia

Ideas have been swarming the internet for years, suggesting anything from indoor gardens to health clinics. However, one of the most popular solutions is to repopulate these spaces with an appropriate mix of apartments and retail space. The latest shopping center expected to undergo this type of transformation is the famous Arcade Providence in Providence, Rhode Island. Built in 1829 by architects James Bucklin and Russell Warren, this Greek Revival structure is listed as a National Historic Landmark for being the nation’s first enclosed shopping mall. It initially locked its doors in 2008 for a major interior renovation and has since remained closed. 

Model of the Arcade’s micro-units. Courtesy of Evan Granoff/Arcade Providence

During this time, owner Evan Granoff hired Michael Abbott of Northeast Collaborative Architects LLC to facilitate in a redesign that aimed to "position the building for a better economic future." The mixed-use plan, which commenced in January 2012 and is scheduled for completion this Spring, will transform the second and third floors into 48 micro-loft apartments that range from 225 to 450 square feet, while integrating approximately 14 businesses, including three or four restaurants, into its first floor. 

Similar to final proposals of New York’s adAPT micro-apartment competition, the affordable apartments are equipped efficient, flexible space that can transform to fulfill your every need. Highlights include built-in beds, a full bath, and proper storage, while the only downfall seems to be the lack of a stove.

Rendering of Micro Apartments. Courtesy of Evan Granoff/Arcade Providence

This $8 million renovation is just one example of how America can refurbish their abandoned shopping malls. For more examples, check out the projects featured at New York’s Museum of the City’s exhibition Making Room, which will remain on view until September 15 (more information here).

Is there a local project taking over a disused shopping mall or big box store in your area? If so, tell us about it in the comment section below. 

References: The Atlantic Cities (1, 2), Providence Business News

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Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Refurbishing America's Shopping Mall" 21 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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