W.T. Grant’s

also known as Mill River Arcade, Poamlands, The Grant, Still on Main

A mini-arcade type of commercial building in a once bustling retail district turned small business and destination retail space

About this Property

#Redevelopment

This 60 foot wide and 160 foot deep commercial building has the bones to be a perfect reflection of its time. At its birth, it was one of many department stores in Downtown Pawtucket, a retail mecca steps away from the hardest working river in New England. By the 1970s, downtown had lost its luster for mid-size single tenant retail in favor of larger stores like the new Apex and Peerless up the street.

Since the late 70s the building has been subdivided into smaller units and has been used for retail, office, studio, and restaurant space. The building has also benefitted from a “theme” — something that tenants can gather around and fit to a purpose, and something that can be a destination for visitors in its own right. In the early 2000s it was hip-hop themed. In the late 2000s and up until 2018 it was centered around creative businesses. And now, since 2019, it is part of a larger revitalization of downtown as small business incubator and community-led endeavors.

#Current Events

Stil on Main” is open most days with a variety of tenants. Still on Main is named for William Grant Still, 1896–1978, a musician and composer of nearly 200 works who was known as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers.”

#History

From J. and Michael Lozano, former owners

The title records for the property go back to 1934, when it was a WT Grant department store. The WT Grant Company occupied it until the mid seventies, but even as a WT Grant department store, the title listed multiple tenants for the property. This continued into the eighties and nineties, when the building was known as the Mill River Arcade (MRA). In 1980 the portion of Main Street in front of WT Grant’s was turned into a pedestrian mall, much like Westminster St in downtown Providence 20 years earlier. It was a failure, and in the late 80s it was opened to vehicular traffic and by 1992 all remnants of the canopy were removed.

A young man by the name of Paris master-leased the building from Louis Yip and created POAMlands (Prospectors and then Preachers on a Mission, a Christian Hip-Hop theme) during the early ought’s. It was full of hip-hop culture-related businesses — a record shop, recording studio, women’s and men’s fashion, and a barber. In the basement would be late night DJ sets. In late 2004 a pipe burst on the unoccupied second floor, flooding the 9000 sq ft basement with up to two feet of water. This was around the same time that the former DMV next door suffered from a burst pipe and the DMV was forced to move to the Apex building. A barber shop on the first floor was the last business to leave POAM in late 2005.

From the National Register nomination for the Downtown Pawtucket Historic District, Kathy Cavanaugh, 2006

250-254 Main Street — W.T. Grant Building, now POAMLANDS MALL (1934; altered mid-late 20th century). A 2-story, flat-roof, 5-bay, yellow brick and terra cotta commercial building, with 2 storefronts (altered). The 1st floor level is clad in terra cotta, and all the trim is terra cotta as well: the storefront and rooftop cornices, the upper floor window surrounds, and the ornamentation on the stepped brick parapet, including a sign band with carved lettering reading “W.T. Grant Building” at the cornice line. The storefronts likely date from the renovation of this building from a department store to a shopping mall (by 1984), but most of their elements (bulkheads, pilasters, columns, and doors) are wood; the metal-framed storefront windows angle back from the plane of the façade to a recessed center entrance of double doors behind two freestanding columns. A large terra cotta band containing a wooden signboard is mounted above the storefronts. Windows on the 2nd floor are 9/9 double hung wood sash organized in alternating groups of threes and twos. The building’s interior (seen through the main entrance) has tin ceilings, metal columns, wood floors, and a basement stairway with a decorative metal railing, all of which are likely original; the subdivision of the interior space was done sometime in the 3rd quarter of the 20th century.

The Grant Building replaced an earlier commercial building known as the Cohen Block — home to, among other businesses, Adolph Cohen boots and shoes — which appears on maps and in directories at this location from 1890 to 1933. The W.T. Grant Company department store is first listed at this address in 1934, and remained in business until 1974, one of several major department stores on Main Street in the early-mid 20th century. By 1984 the Mill River Arcade shopping center, with 22 tenants, was here. The building has recently been sold and is slated for occupancy by restaurants and design businesses. […]

The two-story W.T. Grant Building (250-254 Main Street, 1934) was built in 1934 next door to the Woolworth’s Building as a department store [up th street from a Kresge’s (forerunner to K-Mart) and across the street from a Peerless Department Store]; the W.T. Grant Company was this building’s sole occupant until 1975 (after which it was converted to a multi-tenant shopping mall). This is the only surviving purpose-built early 20th century department store on Main Street, and its handsome yellow brick and terra cotta-ornamented façade testifies to at least one retailer’s optimism that the city would come out of the Great Depression and survive the decline of the cotton textile industry.

#In the News

Former “Arcade-Style” Mall Becomes Collaborative Office Space

Read archived article

Michael Lozano and J. Hogue became the new owners of 250 Main Street, formerly the POAMLANDS mall, in downtown Pawtucket on June 15th, 2006. After a long engagement with lending partners, the City of Pawtucket, and the former owner, the deal was finally transacted and work quickly began on reviving the historic department store into a new type of office environment.

J describes the concept simply as a collaborative, semi-private space where anyone can shut their door and hunker down to meet a deadline or leave their door open, visit their neighbor, or hang out in the coffee shop and brainstorm with others around them. The first floor has 12 units ranging in size from 200 sf to 720 sf. The basement level has 7 studios ranging from 200 sf to 2000 sf. Rent includes internet access and wireless throughout the spaces.

Long-term “anchor” tenants include Kafe Lila, a coffee shop with fresh home-made breads, ice cream, cookies and lunch specials in one streetfront space, while the other is occupied by Flying Shuttles, a weaving studio for adults with developmental disabilities. Other spaces include J’s design studio office for Highchair designhaus, Circuit BMX, studio space for Ghost Town silkscreen studio, Strange Famous Records, and other design-related businesses.

“Everytime I mention these ideas to people, they respond very favorably. Some people get really excited,” says J. “‘A cafe?” they say, “We’ve been waiting for something like that.’” The former DMV next door is full of office space for the Pawtucket School board and the Riverfront Lofts and Bayley Lofts have almost completely leased up, and office space is at a premium in Providence. “People are really looking for this kind of space.”

This is the first development project for partner Michael Lozano, but he is no stranger to development. He currently works for the Pawtucket Community Development Corporation, as a director of real estate. They housing for lower income families, mainly, but these days, that means that they build housing regular people can afford. He’s been wanting to enter the real estate development business for quite some time, but as a developer who is willing to try a new concept instead of the old mill-loft condo song and dance.

The building opens officially for business in January of 2007.

Downtown’s Still on Main opens to the public

by Ethan Shorey
Valley Breeze | July 16, 2019 (abridged)

The foundation for a successful downtown mall is now here, with a great location, staff and entrepreneurs in place, said owner Leslie Moore at Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Still on Main, 250 Main St.

Now, said Moore, the work of getting foot traffic to this energized collection of businesses begins.

“We’re moving,” she said of the official start.

Moore, who bought The Grant building last year, said it was an exciting moment to officially open after many months of planning and development work. Here patrons will have a number of places to “eat, shop and vibe” at, as the mall’s slogan goes. Here customers will find “something to buy, something to do, and something to eat,” Moore promises.

[…]

There is a good team of people here, said Moore, and now the goal is to get the word out. In addition to the deli, new tenants either in the process of opening or soon to open include an esthetician and a dance studio.

This group of entrepreneurs is already building community within the community, said those involved in Still on Main, which is located next to the city parking garage on Main Street. The journey can often be lonely for someone in business on their own, but it’s easier together.

“There’s so much potential here,” said Moore, speaking in the Still on Main Courtyard, or the central space for gathering, browsing, and taking part in events. This is a small enough building, she said, that it shouldn’t be difficult to keep it filled with great tenants. […]

Captured September 5, 2021 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/2019-07-16/pawtucket/downtown-s-still-main-opens-public#.YTVJGy1h1Z0