Nearly two years ago, I dedicated a post to the unlikely transformation of the oldest enclosed shopping mall in America — an 1828 structure in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, known as the Providence Arcade, the Westminster Arcade or, simply, The Arcade — into a mixed-used micro-apartment development. With a smattering of indie boutiques on the ground floor and 48 dainty dwellings on the second and third floors, the smallest of the so-called “micro-lofts" ring in at 225 square feet with a monthly rent of $550.

Although Providence’s building code prohibits residences of such limited square-footage, developer 130 Westminster Street Associates was able to circumvent the restrictions by forgoing stoves and instead including a microwave oven in each unit. With the absence of a cooking device (microwaves, curiously, don’t count), the micro-lofts are permissible under the city’s rooming house code. In total, there are 19 super-compact units; a handful of one-bedrooms along with single two- and three-bedroom units are also available for those looking to spread out a bit more. All of the apartments have at least two exterior windows as well as windows that look into the building's sunlight-drenched central atrium.

The thoughtful design overhaul of the Arcade's upper floors was overseen by Connecticut-based Northeast Collaborative Architects.

At the time of my first story, the official rebirth of the Providence Arcade — or Arcade Providence as it's been rebranded — was still a few months off. The development team was working out the final kinks while amassing quite an impressive wait list for potential tenants all anxious to call the historic shopping mall home sweet home.

Since then, tenants — largely recent college grads and young urban professionals who spend little time at home and value bike parking over full-sized stoves — have moved into their cleverly designed cubbyholes. New commercial tenants have also repopulated the ground floor. True to the revitalized property’s chain-free vision, it would appear that none are of the Orange Julius or Claire’s variety. Rather, the ground floor tenants include a vintage housewares emporium, an indie fashion boutique, a jewelry designer,  a farm-to-table restaurant and much more — all are locally owned and mom-and-pop businesses with a creative slant.

In a great new video from faircompanies, we’re treated to a tour of the revitalized Arcade — both the “micro-retail” destinations and the code-skirting micro-apartments carved out on the floors above them. One includes the apartment of Naz Karim, a “crazy busy” emergency room physician and Lean Cuisine enthusiast who has no qualms with living in a space that some might find as uncomfortably confined or hotel-room-esque. Although she admits that closet organizing was at first a bit of a “struggle,” she’s lucky in that most of her work attire consists of scrubs. “The key is to keep it small.”

When asked if she ever feels like she’s living in a mall, Karim responds: “No, not at all. It’s actually more convenient. It’s convenient to come out of your apartment and be able to grab a cup of coffee if you need; grab breakfast.”

Calling Arcade Providence a “hotel on steroids,” another happy tenant, organic cosmetics formulator Sharon Kinnier, uses her micro-apartment as more an out-of-state pied-à-terre — a cozy crash pad for when work frequently brings her from her primary home in Baltimore to Providence. “This makes you prioritize what is important,” says Kinnier. What is that you really need to live a comfortable life?”

Lots more of this fantastic — and, one would hope, economically viable after extended periods of floundering for this beautiful 19th century building— instance of adaptive reuse in the above video. Would you consider living in a teeny-tiny apartment within a public gathering area such like an urban shopping center? Take a look and let me know what you think. And if you do dig the concept of Arcade Providence, what businesses would you want on the ground floor of your dream shopping mall/micro-apartment complex?

Via [faircompanies]

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

Inside the micro-apartments of America's oldest indoor shopping mall
Indie retail and urban downsizing collide at this smart example of adaptive reuse that breathes new life into a historic shopping center.