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158 Bowen Street, detail

Inside the Arcade: Meet Devon, Micro-Loft Resident

130 Westminster St.

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Devon MacWilliam in her Arcade Micro-Loft

I live in a giant 2.5 bedroom apartment in the West End with my partner, and it’s full of clutter. How many handbags can one person have? And do we really need two sets of pans? Our 15x12ft bedroom seems small with our clothes strewn across the floor. Despite its size, our apartment doesn’t feel spacious. And so I can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of micro-living which is all the rage these days. But what is it like to actually live in a micro-loft? To find out, I visited Devon, a resident in the Arcade Providence.

Devon lives in one of the Arcade’s 300sf apartments which turns out to be about the size of my living room. It’s definitely appropriately called a micro-loft. I wanted Devon to give me the inside scoop on micro-living, figuring that it can’t actually be that great. But when I asked her about the downsides of living so small, she replied, “as for the micro-loft: for my year here, I’m not eager to leave at all.” I think she was honest in her positivity . . . which is a bit contagious. She mostly sold me on the concept.

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One of the Subsidized Apartments (Caroline Stevens 2015)

Devon has lots of storage including deep drawers under her built-in sofa, a large closet, and cabinets. She’s a smart dresser, and I didn’t get the impression that her small apartment was cramping her style in the least. What she doesn’t have is floor space, so unlike my bedroom, her clothes are actually put away — she has no other choice. I was surprised to learn that she has three beds: her big comfy looking bed, a hidden murphy bed, and her long built in sofa could easily accommodate the tallest of over-night guests. She doesn’t have an oven or a stove but seemed perfectly satisfied with her microwave. Counter space was at a premium, but I wasn’t under the impression that she did a lot of cooking. And perhaps most importantly, Devon does have a dishwasher — an appliance I am sorely in need of. I was impressed. Don’t believe me? Listen to what Devon has to say about micro living:

Devon’s favorite part about living in the Arcade is the combination of being in an historic building with modern amenities. The Arcade was completed in 1828 with 78 shops and restaurants, and is the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall. It’s a gorgeous Greek Revival building with a skylight that runs the length of the long central corridor. The building was added to PPS’s Most Endangered Properties program in 2009 after all of the tenants had been forced to leave a year earlier to accommodate a single tenant. This would have compromised the integrity of the building, especially the public corridor that connects two of Providence’s major streets. Only a truly unique plan could save this building, and luckily Developer Evan Granoff of 130 Westminster Street Associates had one. Working with Northeast Collaborative Architects, the building was adaptively reused to accommodate 17 micro retail spaces on the main level and 48 micro lofts (ranging from 225-450sf) on the building’s second and third floors. The Arcade made national headlines for its successful transformation into micro-lofts and businesses. Now every city wants their own Arcade.

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Caroline Stevens, 2015
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Photo Courtesy of Northeast Collaborative Architects
So, what did I decide? I am definitely now a believer in the micro-living in concept. And if I was single and didn’t expect to do a lot of cooking, I’d add my name to the Arcade’s long waiting list. But, I’m not single, and do love to cook so I think I’ll stay put. Though my visit with Devon convinced me that I need to seriously minimize my belongings. Yard sale coming soon . . . stay tuned.

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Want to learn more or add your name to the waiting list? Here’s the Arcade Providence’s website.

What are your thoughts on micro-living? Have you tried it or would you consider it? Share your comments on twitter @pvdpreservation, #mep20

What do you think or know about the Arcade? Share on twitter! @pvdpreservation 

Originally posted on April 1, 2015