Updated March 26 at 7:54am

Arcade ready to again be innovator

'To preserve buildings they have to be making money.'

Can what’s old really become new again?

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Arcade ready to again be innovator

'To preserve buildings they have to be making money.'


Can what’s old really become new again?

Evan Granoff, owner of The Arcade Providence, thinks so and aims to prove himself, as well as those behind him in the effort, right when the building’s transformation – from a vacant reminder of its former glory as a city centerpiece to an innovator in downtown housing – is completed later this year.

The Arcade, once the nation’s oldest operating indoor shopping mall and, since it was built in 1828 one of the city’s most architecturally renowned buildings, will soon reopen as a micro-loft apartment and retail building.

“It’s a market that hasn’t really been addressed and works in that building very well,” said Granoff, of Granoff Associates LLC. “It was meant to [have] very small units. Keeping it that way is just very natural.”

The Arcade has been empty since June 2008, when Granoff announced it would undergo an $8 million, yearlong renovation to position the building for a better economic future.

(That plan was backed by a 22 percent Historic Preservation Income Tax credit.)

It was around that time that Granoff hired Michael Abbott of Northeast Collaborative Architects LLC, with offices in Newport and Providence, as well as Middletown, Conn., to facilitate the redesign.

Abbott has worked on such well-known projects as the Slater Mill historic renovation in North Smithfield and the Providence Performing Arts Center restoration.

The mixed-used plan was announced last January and immediately heralded by city and state officials and civic leaders as the right move at the right time for downtown.

“It took a while to plan it all out, go through everything, and figure out what we were going to do,” Abbott said. “It’s been rehabbed many times. Micro-lofts was a new idea. Residential up above kicked it over the goal line and got it off the ground.”

When it opens – which Granoff hopes will happen by year’s end – the building will house 48 apartment units on its second and third floors and approximately 14 businesses, including three or four restaurants, on its first floor.

By sticking with small spaces, Abbott said, the building will be in truer form to its original 1828 design than ever.

“It’s allowing us basically to put the building back to what it was when it was built,” he said. “They were individual rooms that were tiny. We’re actually creating more of the streetscape [feel] that was inside.”

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