Midland Mall

also known as Rhode Island Mall, RI Mall, Midland Commons

A former mall gets eaten slowly by big-box retail and finally succumbs to the changing times

About this Property

Reason for Demolition & Redevelopment

Much like the Lincoln Mall, the death knell of the Rhode Island Mall started when two big-box tenants closed off access to the mall and were accessible only through the parking lot. When big box anchor tenants turn their backs to a mall, foot traffic decreases rapidly. Couple this with changing tastes in destination retail and the general decline of in-person retail in favor of online retail. Malls and retail in general seem to need to reinvent themselves every 20 years, so it was time for the RI Mall to get a new deal.

The DMV Express was a great asset that we visited a few times before the mall closed interior access by May 22nd, 2011. After a few years, a new owner started to reimagine the interior mall idea as viable, as long as the tenants were a draw. They had plans to gut the interior, create larger floor plans, and attract outlet-style shops — think an indoor version of the Wrenthan Outlets. While the idea might have had merit, construction took place but the new mall never opened. New England Construction led the reconfiguration of the interior spaces in 2016, and their website has a few good photos of the former interior.

Current Events

After languishing for a time, Baltimore-based MCB Real Estate and Acadia Realty Trust, a New York-based real estate investment company, became co-owners. They began in the fall of 2015 to “de-mall” the property. The former mall is now a collection of big box retail with outward entrances in a common parking lot.


Excerpted from Wikipedia and other sources

At the corner of RI route 2 and RI route 113, across the road from CCRI Knight Campus, and across the river from the competing Warwick Mall sits the former Midland Mall. It opened in 1967 as the first two-level enclosed shopping mall in New England other than the arcade in downtown Providence.

The Midland Mall was extensively renovated and re-branded as the Rhode Island Mall in 1984. Anchor stores changed over time — first being Sheperd’s, then G. Fox, then Filene’s, with the longest single tenant being Sears. As part of the renovation, the very first mall food court in the Providence metropolitan area opened on the second floor, called the Greenhouse Cafes.

In 1997, after Filene’s announced they would be closing their branch, its retail space as well as 1/3 of the rest of the mall was demolished and replaced by two other stores that each occupy one floor of the two-level mall: Wal-Mart on the first level and Kohl’s on the second. These stores do not have any inside access to the mall, which caused many of the mall’s remaining tenants to vacate. It was rumored but not confirmed that Stop-n-Shop leased many of the empty storefronts only to keep Wal-Mart from taking over the mall space for a Supercenter, which would have been heavy competition in the grocery retail space.

At the time of its closing in May of 2011, only four stores remained and sought relocation — Lenscrafter’s, H&R Block, First Place Sports, and GNC.1

In the News

Rebirth of RI’s 1st suburban mall

by Ethan Hartley
Warwick Beacon | January 11, 2018 (abridged)

[…] Personnel from the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, the mayor’s office and business franchisees Steve Eddleston and Jessica Miller were on scene with Mayor Scott Avedisian to partake in the festivities and the celebration of Rhode Island Mall’s continuing growth.

“It’s sort of a re-launching of ourselves here in this new location right here in the Rhode Island Mall, which I think is a whole story into itself – what’s happening here,” said Eddleston. “It’s revamped itself for the next decade and hopefully the next century, which we’re very excited about.”

The resurgence of the Rhode Island Mall, indeed, is a story in and of itself, as it has experienced a tumultuous but positively trending recent history since being first opened in 1967 with the distinction of being the first two-level shopping mall (the Midland Mall) in the state, and one of the first malls in the state in general.

The mall was originally set up as a “traditional” type of indoor shopping center, with Sears as its main anchor store and an interior space for patrons to walk and browse many smaller shops. However its popularity waned, and it was officially listed as a “dead mall” in 2007, meaning it had no true anchor store remaining open and high vacancy rates on the property. It officially closed access to its interior in 2011.

The mall experienced a rebirthing opportunity when Winstanley Enterprises, LLC of Concord, Mass. and Surrey Equities, LLC of New York, NY purchased a bulk of the property for $38 million in November of 2012. They had originally planned to turn the location into an outlet shopping center, a-la Wrentham Outlets in Wrentham, Mass.

However that plan never materialized, and the various properties within the mall have since been bought or leased by multiple owners. The most recent large-scale real estate company to invest in the property was MCB Real Estate LLC from Baltimore, MD, which wound up applying for and being granted variances from the city last year to erect new, large signs outside the entryways of the complex to increase visibility.

Ultimately, the city’s redevelopment strategy of the approximately 261,000 square feet parcel – assessed as a value of nearly $16.5 million as of 2016 – has focused on a retail-centric collection of big box stores – anchored by Walmart in the lower area of the mall and Kohls in the upper portion.

That growth is continuing, as Avedisian explained yesterday at Planet Fitness’s grand reopening. […]

The next most recent business to open was Burlington Coat Factory, located on the lower level next to Walmart. Avedisian said on Wednesday that Dick’s Sporting Goods would be ready to open its door within a month’s time, next to Planet Fitness, and that Raymour & Flanigan would be moving in come springtime to what used to be the lower level of what had been Sears.

Coming next, according to Avedisian, would be At Home, set to take over the former upper level of Sears. The upstart home goods store has been forced to relocate from its original spot next to Home Depot after the hardware giant sued them for selling certain home improvement products of which Home Depot had a special privilege to be the sole provider of within that land parcel.

Finally, a popular California pub restaurant chain – BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse – will be moving into what used to be the Sears Automotive center before the end of the year, Avedisian said. With that occupation, the former anchor store of the original Rhode Island Mall will have all of its original spaces filled by new tenants.

“This will, but for one space, be a fully occupied Rhode Island Mall, which we haven’t seen probably since the ’80s, which is incredibly exciting,” said William DePasquale, city planning director. “We’re very proud to get [the mall] back on again. I go by and I see employees, I see a vibrant retail center again.” […]

Captured October 10, 2021 from https://warwickonline.com/stories/rebirth-of-ris-first-suburban-mall

Rhode Island Mall owners envision outlet shopping in Warwick

by Paul Grimaldi
Providence Journal | August 7, 2014 (abridged)

The state’s first suburban indoor shopping mall could become Rhode Island’s first outlet mall, according to preliminary development plans.

Read the full article

Rhode Island Mall owners Winstanley Enterprises and Surrey Equities LLC want to covert the two-story mall into an indoor version of the popular outlet shopping format.

“Almost everything inside and outside will be new,” said Ed Silvera, president of New York-based Surrey Equities. “We’ve spent a lot of time on this design.”

Mall mainstay Sears, which is the only original tenant at the nearly 50-year-old mall, will remain, as will the Walmart, Kohl’s and Toys ‘R’ Us stores, and other “out” buildings on the site, both restaurants.

The corner of Bald Hill Road and East Avenue has been a destination for Rhode Islanders since October 1967 when the shopping center opened with 60 stores as Midland Mall. Later renamed Rhode Island Mall, it eventually accommodated nearly 100 stores and restaurants, including standalone outlets in its parking lot.

The mall portion of the property, 225,000 square feet, has been closed since April 2011. Sears, Walmart and Kohl’s occupy the anchor spots at the mall’s two ends.

Winstanley, of Concord, Mass., and Surrey together bought the 450,000-square-foot mall for $38 million in November 2012 from GLL Real Estate Partners of Orlando, Fla.

“It’s a great market,” Silvera said.

The partners originally said they were going to invigorate the mall with about a half-dozen new, large-format retailers. They’ve swapped that idea in favor of one that will add dozens of factory-style shops.

“The expectation is to not have typical stores,” Silvera said, though he declined to name potential tenants.

A schematic drawing on the Winstanley website indicates shoppers will gain access to the stores from inside the mall, rather than from exterior entrances that line the typical outlet mall buildings.

“It will be outlet tenants in an interior mall,” Silvera said.

The partners hope to start construction in the first quarter of 2015.

“It’s early on in the process,” Silvera said. “There will be a significant amount of demolition work.”

That work in Warwick’s central shopping district will help boost the city’s fortunes, said Mayor Scott Avedisian.

“This takes tired space and turns it into another attraction to bring people here,” Avedisian told The Journal. “This is a great announcement for the City of Warwick.”

An outlet-style mall will join the future home of the Steamship Historical Society of America as new reasons for people to visit the city, Avedisian said. The historical group announced earlier this week that it will move its exhibits into the former library building of the New England Institute of Technology at 2500 Post Rd.

Along with a revitalized Warwick Mall, which was refurbished after the 2010 flood, the museum and the mall may help the city attract businesses to City Centre — the 95-acre commercial district near T.F. Green Airport, the mayor said.

The city and the state have been working for years to use air, rail and road accessibility to spur redevelopment of that old industrial area along Jefferson Boulevard.

Avedisian could shed no light on which stores might take up space in a refurbished Rhode Island Mall as the owners have yet to submit their plans, he said.

“We have a team ready to review their plans once they come in,” Avedisian said.

Winstanley owns and operates 43 buildings in New England, holding approximately 5.5 million square feet of space in all.

Among Winstanley’s holdings is the Norwichtown Mall in Norwich, Conn., where the company and a different partner rebuilt another aged shopping center.

The partners bought Norwichtown Mall for $15.75 million and committed another $7.5 million to tearing down its center portion and replacing it with a smaller retail plaza.

Winstanley also is building a headquarters for Alexion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven, Conn. Alexion operates a factory in Smithfield, where it produces the drug Solaris.

Surrey formed in 2004 and now owns properties in 11 states, including Texas, Ohio and Florida.

Captured October 10, 2021 from https://www.providencejournal.com/article/20140807/news/308079612

  1. “Rhode Island Mall to Close at the End of May,” ABC Channel 6 News, March 23, 2011. Captured October 10, 2021 from https://www.abc6.com/rhode-island-mall-to-close-at-the-end-of-may/