Coinciding with the tiny house movement over the last several years, there has also been a big push to repurpose old buildings.
Proponents argue that it’s a great way to approach solving the housing crisis facing many young people who have been priced out of current the rental market. Why build new houses for people to live in when we already have so many abandoned buildings currently sitting vacant? Wouldn’t it be easier to just convert these old buildings into housing?
It’s no surprise that at the end of the day, it all comes down to money. The main issue developers have with these potential renovation projects is trying to figure out a way to make them profitable. However, some developers are proving that it is definitely possible.
One big success story has been the renovation of the oldest mall in America — an almost 200-year-old building located in Providence, Rhode Island.
Owner Evan Granoff wanted to convert the space into something both livable and affordable, and thus his micro loft concept was born.
There is a pretty fascinating documentary about the project made by YouTuber Kirsten Dirksen, and if you are interested in tiny living then it is something that you just have to watch.
“This is the oldest indoor shopping mall in the country… it wasn’t the first, but it is the oldest one that still exists, built in 1828,” the documentary begins.
“People talk about saving historic buildings, but often the only way they may save them is to make them economically viable. How can you make this building economically building when you have 50% common area?”
That was the biggest challenge — how to best utilize the space so as to make it livable, yet still profitable.
The obvious solution was that they needed to charge at much money per square foot as possible.
The mall, now called The Providence Arcade features one floor of small retail shops. On the second and third floors, they built 48 tiny micro loft apartments, with unit sizes varying between 225 and 800 square feet.
Each loft contains some simple built-in furniture, a bathroom, and an efficiency kitchen.
Although the cost per square foot is higher than average for apartments in the city, the efficient use of space means that overall the apartments are still much cheaper than other nearby ones in the same area.
The mall is located right in downtown Providence and the smallest units cost just $750/month. For downtown living in a major US city, that is practically unheard of. In fact, as soon as the units hit the market they were all rented out almost immediately.
One woman in the documentary, Dr. Nariz Karim, discussed why she decided to go tiny and rent one of the micro lofts in The Arcade.
“So you can see, it’s pretty small, but it’s really all you need for one person,” Karim said.
Although none of the units are allowed to have a stove because of housing codes, for most of the residents that is just fine.
Karim goes on to explain that because she is an emergency room physician, she doesn’t really spend a lot of time at home. She doesn’t have free time to cook much anyway. She mainly eats canned soups, Lean Cuisines, and other things that are simple to prepare. She also bought a small toaster oven to use.
Also, important to Karim’s decision of going small and cheap is the fact that she does a lot of travel.
She is doing a fellowship in International Emergency Medicine so she will be spending a lot of time overseas in Rwanda. For her, the micro loft is definitely the right choice.
Really, there are a lot of different reasons you might choose to go tiny. For some, it’s because they are very busy like Dr. Karim and don’t spend much time at home, and for others, it’s because they just like the idea of downsizing.
The micro lofts are also perfect for anyone on a budget like students, senior citizens, or anyone who is interested in minimalism whether by choice or by necessity.
Overall, we have to say — the pictures look very awesome. While tiny living is not for everyone, it’s easy to understand why many would want to live in The Arcade.
There is just something super cool about living in an almost two-century-old historic structure in the heart of the city that we can all appreciate.
Watch the fascinating documentary below to learn more about The Providence Arcade renovation project.
Please SHARE this with your friends and family.
Follow your friends or be the first to join our group