If its owners are able to meet their ambitious timetable, Rhode Island Mall will have a new life. The state’s first outlet mall could be open in time for the 2015 Christmas shopping season.
A lot has to happen by then. And a lot has already happened.
The resurrection of the mall has been in the planning stages for about a year, said Trish Reynolds of the city planning department. Initially, the concept was for more big-box stores with outside entrances, but after owners returned from a retailer’s convention in Las Vegas, everything changed, she said. Apparently, the idea of an outlet mall was well received.
And one of its most enthusiastic supporters is Ed Silvera, president of Surrey Equities of New York City. Surrey and Winstanley Enterprises, LLL of Concord, Mass., are owners of the mall.
“It’s great infrastructure,” Silvera said in an interview Friday, “but it needs refreshing.”
He said the mall will have an all-new look and entrances. He said “north of $30 million” would be invested in transforming the mall. When that is finished, it would be a “unique” outlet mall.
“The entire property is going to look different,” he said.
Sears, Wal-Mart and Kohl's will remain, as will Toys R Us and other unattached buildings.
Of course, since the story broke on Thursday, the buzz is over what outlet stores would open at the mall.
Silvera said there would be between 40 and 60 stores, but “it’s very early in the process.” And, judging from the interview, a number of outlets are actively exploring leases and may have already reached tentative agreements. Silvera said no announcements will be made until contracts are signed.
He explained that the mall won’t open until it is “almost fully occupied.” The intent is to give the shopper a complete experience from the day the doors re-open. To accomplish that, Silvera aims to start the mall renovations in early 2015. Likewise, outlet stores would need to complete the build-out of their space in time for next year’s Christmas shopping.
Warwick’s location and demographics are top selling points on the mall's website.
“Warwick has become one of the strongest and most sought after retail submarket in the northeast with over 8 million square feet of space and only 6 percent vacancy,” it reads.
The demographics point to a population of 532,408 living within a 10-mile radius of the mall and 1.8 million within 30 miles.
It’s no surprise to Aram Garabedian, managing partner of the Warwick Mall, that the Rhode Island Mall, just across the Pawtuxet River, should be targeted for revival.
He sees additional stores in the Route 2 corridor as working to the benefit of the shoppers and the stores. He said it would offer another “shopping experience.”
Mayor Scott Avedisian took it a step further. He said it would capture business from Rhode Island shoppers that would otherwise be traveling to Clinton, Conn., or Wrentham, Mass., the two nearest outlet malls. He saw the development complementing Warwick Mall and Route 2 stores because “it would be a totally different set of stores.”
The direct benefit, he said, would be construction jobs, plus an estimated 400 to 600 retail service jobs, based on an average of 10 employees per store.
“This is a great addition to what we already have,” he said.
And, he noted, an outlet mall would be an added attraction to the Providence Warwick Visitors Convention Bureau’s efforts to lure conventions.