Greater City Providence

Oldest indoor shopping mall in America, closed



The Arcade, the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall, closed to the public this morning as its owners are preparing to transition the downtown landmark, which in recent years had been home to a handful of small, independent businesses and eateries, into a space for a single company or retailer.

Good luck with that.

“It’s gotten a lot scarier out there,” [Evan Granoff] said in his offices today. “There are not a lot of people thinking of expanding. Retailers are just trying not to have to hold onto a lot of inventory on their shelves, and other businesses are just trying to survive in this climate.”

It’s scary out there, we can’t afford to maintain the building, could we have an “emergency demo permit?”

The Arcade, which was built in 1828 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is assessed at about $1.4 million, according to city records.

Really, how hard would it be for us to raise $1.4 million? I’m serious.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • No, as I mentioned in Bret’s post, the key is that the city, or the DMA need to sue Granoff for not using the building. An empty building can be construed as a nuisance. I am willing to bet that if Granoff opened the doors to the small businesses again and said “ok, how about a two year lease” the building would at least fill by half.

  • Although, I would be willing to participate in a gigantic bake sale to buy the building. I think one of those small spaces on the first floor would be a perfect location for my Happy Endings Dessert Spa.

  • I would love to see this building go to a
    locally owned co-operative that could program the building effectively. There are two things that have been posted on which I’d like to elaborate:

    – assessed value does not equate to market value. 1.4M may be the true market value of the building, but I suspect that the highest and best use would justify something higher than the assessed value. That said, I don’t think that the value of the building is out of reach of a well-organized co-op.

    – an empty building can only be construed as a nuisance if it actually is a nuisance. Simply standing a building empty is not a crime. as long as the building is maintained, secure, and taxes are paid, the standard legal obligations of the owner are being fulfilled. That said, I’m sure support could be built around a concept that does indeed utilize the building in a way that meets the City’s goals of activating downtown.

    These two things aside, I would encourage anyone interested in creating a co-op with retail members on the first floor of the arcade and commercial members on the second and third floors, and potentially even residential on the third floor! Could be very interesting.

  • I wonder of Granoff’s insistence that it is not profitable as is, and the only way to make it profitable is an expensive redesign has done any damage to their market value were they to sell it.

  • I think too that it will be a way to get a reduction in property taxes, but saying that it is not a profitable business. I am going to guess they’re going to sit on it until the market turns (and it will) and then they’ll do what they want with it. In the meantime they’ll cry poverty and get a property tax reduction on it because it is empty, when in reality they should be charged more for KEEPING it empty.

  • BTW, there’s really no way of knowing whether the building is secure or not. Vagrants may not be getting in but what about water?

    How is the city to know if there’s a mysterious roof leak that threatens the structural integrity of the building? With the exception of the Masonic Temple, what buildings do you know of that have remained empty and are still standing and not in fear of being torn down?

  • I would have to question this as being the oldest indoor MALL the Bergan Mall in Paramus NJ was an out door strip mall enclosed in the early 70’s was the start of the indoor mall as we know it today

  • The Arcade was built in 1828, considerably older than the mall in Paramus. Other malls take credit for starting the suburban mall movement, but the Arcade claims the title of first enclosed shopping mall in the United States.

  • Isn’t the Arcade on the Historical Register. So how can it be demolished ?????

  • It’s closed ?? I want to cry…that’s just wrong. My dolly kins went to the doll hospital there….and I had my hair cut at Percy’s….sitting on the dobby horse…..and I used to hang out there when I was in my hippie days…..
    There are so many memories of the Arcade in my memory bank. Oh please…don’t let it get demolished….it is too beautiful !

  • Jeff…Please keep this story alive…this place needs to be saved. Look….4 years later…and here I am, posting about it. There are a lot of people who want this place to survive !!!

  • Guys instead of posting online (which is a good way to get out of the way)… go to the building and protest.

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