Some intriguing historic redevelopment news out of downtown Providence, R.I. today (with a hat tip to Bridgette Meinhold over at Inhabitat):

After being shuttered in 2008 due to the poor economy, what's commonly believed to be the nation’s oldest enclosed shopping mall — to be clear, this isn’t your car-dependent, post-war suburban shopping center a la Seattle’s Northgate Mall — will be reopened/revived later this year once again as a collection of shops and restaurants. However, there will be one notable difference: instead of office space, the second and third floors of the historic retail temple will be home to 48 "micro-lofts" measuring between 225 and 450 square feet.

Built in 1828 and declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976, the Providence Arcade — otherwise known as the Westminster Arcade or simply “the Arcade” if you're a local — is known for its “distinguished Greek Revival columns, granite walls, and classic facades.” Once upon a time, the magnificent building — that's the interior atrium circa 2007 pictured above — was also known as a shopping destination. But like many once-thriving downtown retail destinations, the Providence Arcade has struggled over the years.

Providence Arcade kitchen

Developer Evan Granoff of 130 Westminster Street Associates believes that the salvation of the stately building with the big columns and huge history lies within tiny living ... and retailing. Not only will the Providence Arcade boast the aforementioned pint-sized dwellings, the 16 single- and double-level retail spaces on the ground level will be of notably reduced square footage as well: averaging 400 square feet, the units will be about half the size of most of the city’s retail spaces and smaller than most of the spaces in the Arcade prior to its revamping according to the Providence Phoenix.

But back to those micro-loft units. As mentioned earlier, the square footage for the units start at 225 square feet and include a “nearly full-sized” refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave (but no range); a full bath with shower; and a Murphy bed along with space-saving built-in storage and seating. “This is like a cruise ship or a boat cabin, where everything is being built into the unit," Granoff tells the Phoenix during a Murphy bed demo. "It's totally ready to roll." Geared to attract young professionals and recent grads from one of the city's colleges and universities, rents for the units will start at $550/month.

Providence Arcade rooftop viewThe complex also features a communal hang-out room, on-site laundry facilities, and bike storage.

Feeling claustrophobic? Don’t forget that there’s a shopping arcade and a couple of restaurants right downstairs at your disposal.

Although it’s not entirely clear as to what kind of businesses will be repopulating the Arcade, I’m thinking that when future residents need to give directions that this will be more of a "I live in the sleek micro-loft above the artisanal bakery and across from the jewelry design studio" than a “I live in the shoebox above the Orange Julius that used to be a Sunglass Hut" type of situation. And with its smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-downtown location and WalkScore of 98, the location of this "vibrant arcade community"couldn't be more foot-, bike-, and public transit-friendly.

Not surprisingly, the wait list to get in on one of the units is already quite daunting.

With a move-in date slated for later this spring, you can preview the Providence Arcade's micro-makeover at a museum exhibition that I'm finding myself writing about a lot these days: "Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers” at the Museum of the City of New York. Floor plans, additional renderings, and a bit of the building's history can also be found at the development's website.

Via [Inhabitat], [Providence Phoenix]

Renderings: Arcade Providence

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

America's oldest indoor shopping mall to be reborn as mixed-use micro-loft complex
In the biggest city in America's smallest state, comes a micro-apartment complex that aims to revive a struggling 19th-century indoor shopping center.