Greater City Providence

Putting a cone on the Rhode Island Mall

midlandmall 1970

Midland Mall in c.1970. Photo from

Now that the owners have made it official, the Midland Rhode Island Mall will now, officially, be a dead mall, now what?

Speculation has long been that the holders of the master lease, Royal Ahold, parent company of Stop & Shop, was sitting on the property to keep the Walmart at the mall from expanding into a Supercenter, which would compete with area Stop & Shops. I imagine if Walmart wanted a Supercenter in the area, they’d find a way to open one. It’s not like Walmart has never closed a store before to open a bigger one.

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Of course last year, after the floods, we discussed the malls. While the Rhode Island Mall did not suffer the flooding that the Warwick Mall did, unbuilding the Rhode Island Mall and allowing open ground to soak up water before it enters the river would be good for the entire watershed. Published reports claim that the mall’s anchor stores, Kohls, Walmart, and Sears will remain open. While those stores remain the closed portion of the mall could be demolished with parking replacing it, and removing parking from areas along the river. The current parking at the mall is for a much larger customer base than the anchors draw.

I imagine, what is likely to happen, is the property will be sat on until the economy turns, then it will be transformed into a Lifestyle Center a la Garden City or Chapel View.

The mall could be unbuilt and replaced with housing. Warwick lost 3,000 people in the last 10 years according to the census and Mayor Avedisian is concerned that Airport expansion is a big part of the blame:

William DePasquale, director of Warwick’s Division of Planning, said 300 homes were bought out by the airport corporation over the past decade. That could account for 1,000 people or more, he said.

And more buyouts are expected as the airport plans a major runway expansion.

“I’m concerned because as we go forward, they’ll be taking more and more homes,” said Avedisian. “I would expect to see another drop in 10 years.”

Well, if you are losing housing, you need to build more to replace it if you don’t want to see your population fall. The Rhode Island Mall land, transformed into a Lifestyle Center or other smarter growth configuration, could support housing, and combined with CCRI across the street, a transit link could be established across town to connect with the Train Station at T.F. Green.

Of course what is likely and what actually could happen, in the fantasy world of internet discussions, are two entirely different things. What do you think should become of the old Midlands?

For an explanation on the title of this post, see this comment.

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.


  • That’s wikkit smaat to build housing on that mall site, because the City of Warwick received a written guarantee from God that the Pawtuxet River will never, ever flood again. Provided that RI defeat marriage equality.

  • Well, the Rhode Island Mall didn’t flood in last year’s 500 10-year flood (no one noticed because no one ever goes there). But I would suggest only building the uphill areas up against Route 113 (which would be good urbanism) and giving the downhill areas back to the river. Flat areas maybe some recreation areas like baseball and soccer fields and closer to the river allowed to go wild.

  • I’m too new here to know how long the RI mall has been dead or dying, but I suspect it will be allowed to languish for at least a decade. It would certainly be nice to see what Jeff suggested – housing and retail in the higher lands, recreation and wilds closer to the river.

  • I’ve been here 7.5 years. It’s been dying since at least the time I arrived. Heck, the Warwick Mall has been dying too. Not much in there either.

  • Lifetime townie here – It has been slowly dying for around 20 years with a real steady decline beginning with the closure of Filenes in 1997. After that they demo’d around 1/3 of the mall and the new Kohls/Walmart didn’t open into the mall, effectively killing what was left. When I was a kid this was the hot mall and Warwick was kind of an also-ran.

    I think the mall could be revitalized if it were renovated and all the anchors opened into it. That being said, indoor malls are kind of a dinosaur now. I think the only thing that would relly make sense would be to big box what is left of the concourse.

  • When I was a kid in the early 90’s, RI Mall was where we all went to skateboard and be suburban mall rats, etc. They had lots of cool stores back then, including a lot of local chains (kind of like the Lincoln Mall back then too.) Liam is right, once Filenes closed, it went downhill quickly. At one point there was a Filenes at both malls simultaneously.

  • PBN: Rhode Island Mall sold for $38M

    “There is a rich history with this property, and we are very excited to breathe new life into the development by putting together a plan that will once again position the mall as a vibrant part of Warwick’s retail hub,” Adam Winstanley, a principal of Winstanley Enterprises, said in prepared remarks.

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