While I’ve seen the Windsor Park Mall in San Antonio, Texas thrive, then die, and then become the current San Antonio headquarters for Rackspace, this method of retrofitting a former mall into an micro-apartment complex (in which the units range from 225 to 800 sq. ft.) is very interesting! These are the Arcade Microlofts in Providence, Rhode Island. The original Arcade shopping center played a huge role in the history of shopping in America, as it was built in the 1820s, back when the idea of a series of shops inside the same enclosed building was a novelty. Instead of a main street lined with several independent stores, the Arcade offered shopping as a form of entertainment rather than a chore. In the luxurious Arcade, filled with lovely wrought iron balconies and a hulking neoclassical facade, you were sheltered from weather, pollution, and the outside world, much like how today’s malls are.
Soon thereafter, the Arcade shrank, decayed, and sat empty during suburban sprawl and modern malls being built, but was saved from demolition by being named a historic landmark. Today, as a complex of micro apartments, some units come equipped with a twin murphy bed that folds up into the wall for guests, while the bathroom is possibly the largest enclosed space in some of the smallest units. It’s been a couple of years since the units went on the market, and they’ve been very popular. The video below provides a clear look at what it’s like to live in this tiny, historic space, and we hear two different residents at the Arcade explain how these tiny units have (or have not) affected their lifestyles.