Aug 7, 2018

Living In The Mall

Westminster Arcade
Providence, Rhode Island
If you've ever watched Dawn Of The Dead or Night Of The Comet, you might have thought about what it would be like to live in a mall.  If that sounds like your kind of thing and you don't feel like going through a troublesome zombie apocalypse to get there, all you need is to take a road trip to Rhode Island with about $800.  That's the cost of the cheapest apartment at Westminster Arcade.

This is the oldest indoor shopping mall in the United States.  It was built in 1828 and has been a retail outlet for over 150 years.  It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, and underwent renovations in 2008 to turn the top two floors into micro apartments.  According to Business Insider, they range from 225 to 775 square feet, and they cost between $800 to $1,800 a month to rent.

The apartments are very small and are designed with single, active people in mind.  Their kitchens don't have an oven, but the first floor is still a fully functioning mall complete with stores, coffee shops and restaurants, so dinner is never far from your front door.

I've been to a lot of malls that have had a beautiful atmosphere with skylights, lamps, benches, plants, fountains, and a very relaxed and pleasant vibe.  Even the faint background music is enjoyable if you can set aside the Muzak cynicism.  However, in the modern world with online shopping squeezing out the brick and mortar stores, most of them have a hard time keeping their doors open and filling their storefronts with tenants.

Instead of tearing these places down, it would be awesome if they could be turned into little communities, where you could take a walk down even during a snowstorm.  It could be a place where you could leave your apartment and walk down to the corner to meet with friends at a coffee shop, or to a movie at an anchor store without ever really leaving home.  With the size of some of these dying malls and the empty stores inside, it wouldn't be too hard to convert them into nice homes with a shared private "main street" that was once the hallways of a shopping mall.  Businesses like restaurants, pizza parlors, laundromats, arcades, drug stores, theaters, and even doctors offices could remain open to the general public through external entrances, but also have a steady source of income from residents for whom these businesses would be very convenient and a part of their neighborhood.  They could even remodel the external areas of the mall to give the homes a front porch and plant some grass to make a yard, with a back porch inside the mall.  The parking lots are pretty big, so it wouldn't take much to build a playground and a park with plenty of room remaining for cars.

Maybe this all sounds like a lame idea, but I think it could be pretty great.  I'm glad to see that something like that is keeping the oldest mall in America alive (photo sources: Business Insider, Bored Panda and Pop Sugar).