A man in Providence Rhode Island is making headlines as he did the unimaginable. The story begins in 2007 with a man by the name of Michael Townsend. Michael lived in a warehouse loft region of Providence. An artsy district that ended up getting bought and torn down. During this, his friends and him protested for a few years but ultimately ended up losing their home to the new developers.
Back in 1999, mall development was becoming massive. A 1.4 million square foot development wall was being developed in Providence Rhode Island with 160 stores. This $500 million dollar project was designed to be a one stop shopping destination. Michael Townsend, a ‘protagonist’ ran next to the mall construction site everyday.
He spotted a section of the site that didn’t make sense. There was an area that was being built. A room, a store of sorts but it became neither. It looked like a design accident purely because the space around it had it’s own purpose. A shop in the mall, or parking.
The art district that Michael lived in known as ‘fort thunder’ was bought, torn down and replaced by a parking lot. He was then hit with a bolt of inspiration. At the time he was a drawing instructor and after much discussion he reached out to his friends for help.
They decided to start a project, 7 friends in total, called ‘Trummerkind’ which translates from German to English as “Children of the ruins” – A German term. To bring Trummerkind to life, they would daringly try to live inside Providence place mall for a single week. Suddenly, Michael remembered the weird void he remembered seeing in the mall years ago.
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The space in the mall was around 750 square feet. How amazing is that? Michael and his friends were sitting on some prime real estate right in the middle of the mall, 100% free. The challenge is that there was no plumbing or electricity.
They found a way to wire in from other hidden areas of the mall. They took the ‘week long living’ concept and decided why not try to live in the mall indefinitely. They carried the junk out in backpacks and buckets. They brought back in blankets, silverware, water, a television, even a couch.
They set about building a wall to hide their secretive condo. Then, with a stroke of ingenuity they installed a plain white utility door to hide from the external world. A series of extension tables powered to the inside of the mall connected to an old TV, a playstation and more. They didn’t have a running water, but they used the movie theatre bathroom late night to go to the restroom.
They moved in a big China cabinet into the space, a couch, a few tables and of course video games. The question is, how did they manage to sneak all this in without anyone noticing? It turns out that they could get in easily and out easily as it’s a mall and there’s a lot of people everywhere, all the time. This secretive condo setup was so perfect that they would often stay in the mall up to 3 or 4 weeks at a time.
The first rule of ‘secret mall condo’ is ‘don’t talk about secret mall condo’ and keep it secret. After the stealthy setup reached it’s 4th year of living, they actually decided to see if they could live in the space full-time after a year. They began looking at plumbing options, and then the rug was pulled out from under them. One day, in 2007 their utility door was kicked in and their art, photo album and playstation were stolen. The TV, and other objects were left. They could not call the police as the cops would arrest them for trespassing.