Tuesday, October 16, 2007

At Home in the Mall

A recent article in the Boston Globe hit home—literally. Seems a starving artist in Providence, R.I., set up more than shop in the Providence Place Mall. He made it his abode. Michael Townsend, 36, and seven other artists built a secret apartment in the mall’s parking garage four years ago—and the group has lived there off and on ever since..

The place sounded pretty cozy—sectional sofa, love seat, coffee and breakfast table, rugs, paintings, china hutch, TV and Sony PlayStation 2—all hidden behind a nondescript utility door. (No running water, though, so the group of eight had to wash up in the mall bathrooms.)

The jig was up a couple of weeks ago when mall security stumbled upon the apartment. Despite the fact that they were impressed with the setup, the guards turned Townsend and friends in on a trespassing charge.

Providence Place Mall is owned by General Growth Properties, out of Chicago. I happen to be well acquainted with the folks at General Growth, and know them to be a friendly, hospitable group. I guess it’s asking a little much of mall owners to ask them to serve as permanent hosts to the homeless, no matter how well they hide.

—Katherine Field

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