Greater City Providence

Warwick Beacon: RI Mall to have new life as home to big box retailers

…Winstanley sees the potential to attract larger retailers that are not yet present in the area, though he said it was premature to name any specifically.

Depending on retailer demands, Winstanley said the building could house either two or four large stores.

The preliminary phases of the project will continue over the next six to nine months, but Winstanley said people shouldn’t expect to see the mall re-open for at least two years. He said it will take at least a year to design and plan out the project and at least another year for construction.

Hasn’t the recession taught us that the age of the Big Box is coming to a close? Are there any retailers left to attract that aren’t already on Route 2?

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.


  • When it takes 5+ years to convert your CompUSA to a Hobby Lobby with an empty parking lot, you know it’s time for more big box.

  • RI Mall should just lock the doors and bring in the wreckers. There’s already plenty of big box in Warwick and they’re feeling a pinch. So it’s unlikely they’ll be able to attract any new lessors.

    It’s funny – when Emerald Square opened up I watched Lincoln Mall just crumble up. Then when Providence Place opened I watched both RI Mall and Warwick Mall start drying up.

    You can only support so much retail in a given space.

  • Don’t sell the RI Mall short. If the state ever decides to invest in good regional rail, the mall is right on the abandoned line between Providence and West Warwick. Better to invest in this mall than in the other mall, which isn’t as close to the line and would require deviating to a greenfield alignment.

  • Alon, I have to disagree with you. Practically speaking, the distances between either mall and the Washington Secondary are close enough to be written off. East Avenue and West Natick Road are both grade crossings that would need elimination, but there’s much more room to work at West Natick Road, and there’s the added benefit of being able to more easily link the new station into 295. The same opportunities for bus connections exist at either location, and perhaps most importantly – there’s no residencies between the Secondary and the Warwick Mall like there are at the RI Mall.

    Of course, this is all strictly hypothetical because there’s no room to quad-track that ROW, even double-tracking it is probably going to require carving a swathe of destruction through Kent County, and considering what’s currently occupying that ROW, I don’t think the state has nearly enough willpower to get it reactivated, landbanking be damned. Amtrak might take it for PVD-HFD, but something tells me that train wouldn’t stop anywhere except for MAYBE Coventry on RI-102 – and then, only for the open space to build a Park ‘n’ Ride and the relative ease of access to I-95.

    Far more likely, considering that I-82 is dead in the water and carving a brand-new ROW into Providence via Scituate and Johnston is going to end up causing a similar quantity of destruction as the Washington Secondary, is blasting a new ROW through the countryside coming off a right turn from the line between New London and Worcester just south of Danielson. You lose Warwick but you pick up Johnston, and Warwick’s already going to see plenty of service on the Shoreline anyway.

  • Down here in exile there’s this old sad mall, The Springfield Mall, which is right next to what we affectionately call the Cluster Puff that is The Mixing Bowl (where the beltway meets 95) and this is what they are turning it into:

    According to the report on NPR yesterday, this is the most $$ piece of land in Northern VA right now, because of its potential, proximity to the VRE and the Metro, as well as the dreaded beltway and 95. Now I’m not a fan of these so-called “town centers” because they aren’t town centers, they are simply vaguely walkable shopping centers that are more upscale looking than strip plazas and sometimes have some sort of community-like feature. But, it could be something that should the economy ever improve in RI, be looked at for the Mall, considering how close it is to everything…

    Anyway, just a thought.

  • I’m not a huge fan of the Lifestyle Center concept myself, I prefer real urbanism, and lifestyle centers are an artifice. A wholly controlled vision of what a living streetscape should be. That being said, I would prefer a dozen lifestyle centers over the endless parade of big boxes surrounded by parking, each with its own entrance off the main road as we see lining Route 2.

    Garden City predates the modern lifestyle center trend and as such does not fully realize some of the positive aspects of the concept. Garden City is a parking lot with buildings surrounding it on three sides with storefronts opening onto “sidewalks” and some dumb ass gazebo thrown in because someone saw one in a movie once.

    Garden City would be more successful with one Main Street and parking off behind the rows of shops. That would allow a more urban-like street experience instead of the crazed shoppers hunting for parking and the frazzled shoppers dodging between them to get back to their cars. A mix of uses with housing and offices would also make the experience less artificial than it is.

    Rhode Island Mall could go that route. It has several big box tenants (Kohl’s, Walmart, Sears) to attract a steady stream of destination shoppers, a “Main Street” weaving through the rest of the property with parking artfully arranged on the periphery would make for a true lifestyle center which I don’t think Rhode Island actually has yet. Open space along the river, housing, interaction with the main roads… would create a new village center for Warwick.

    As Alon points out, the location has great transportation links both historic in the legacy rail lines and modern in the form of Routes 2, 95, and 295. Its location also makes it a good transit possible connection between cross-Kent County bus lines from the Interlink to north-south lines serving Providence, West Warwick, and other areas.

    Plowing down the mall and building some more big boxes, as the entire region from New York to Maine has thousands of empty big boxes already is just dumb.

  • Oh wait, is Ye Olde Centre of Newe Englande a lifestyle center? Where is that place? I’ve only ever seen it from the highway.

    Edit: I just looked it up on the Google. First, it is not a Lifestyle Center, it is just a collection of four lanes roads running through parking lots with big boxes and sad housing thrown about. Second, it sucked the soul right out of me and I am a zombie now.

Providence, RI
Partly Cloudy
5:29 am8:14 pm EDT
Feels like: 88°F
Wind: 7mph W
Humidity: 43%
Pressure: 29.96"Hg
UV index: 6
84°F / 70°F
81°F / 68°F
75°F / 68°F