Man Builds Secret Apartment At Mall, Gets Away With It For Four Years

An artist in Providence, Rhode Island was apprehended the other day by mall security as he left the secret apartment he’d built almost four years ago, in an unused utility space in the mall’s parking garage. The apartment had no running water (they used mall bathrooms), but it did include “a sectional sofa and love seat, coffee and breakfast tables, chairs, lamps, rugs, paintings, a hutch filled with china, a waffle iron, TV and Sony Playstation 2,” according to the Boston Globe.

The man built the apartment with the help of seven other artists, and various people have lived in it over the past few years for up to three weeks at a time. The artist’s website about the project offers both an explanation of the “installation,” and a couple of long-winded apologies that sound suspiciously court-ordered—or to help him avoid getting the crap beat out of him the next time he’s pulled over for speeding, and includes this “thank you”:

Thank you mall. I have grown exponentially from having this opportunity and it has been a major and most valuable part of my life and imagination. In the future I hope to share some of my experiences and observations with a wider audience and can only say that living in the mall is great. I am saddened that I am not allowed to ever return to the mall again, but I understand. The mall made me think very carefully about what we buy.


The Apartment at the Mall [Artist’s website and apology]
“Artist gets probation for building secret mall apartment” [Boston Globe via BoingBoing]


Edit Your Comment

  1. newlywed says:

    with the direction rent is going, the mall should totally start charging for that space! i heart the artist.

  2. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    I saw that on the 11pm news last night. Freakin’ awesome.

  3. Sidecutter says:

    Jeez. Wow. Just mind-boggling that he managed to live there on and off for FOUR YEARS. I was in the hotel and convention center attached to that mall at the end of June, beginning of July for BotCon and visited that mall several times. Wonder if he was in there at the time.

  4. Bay State Darren says:

    Mods, these guys deserve Consumerist lifetime achievement awards. [BTW, did they set up a blog or anything for this? I’d love to read it.]

  5. B says:

    Did he do all his shopping at the mall?

  6. FREAKHEAD says:

    Sounds like a really strange movie concept.

    The mall Muzak alone would have drove me crazy but you can’t beat the rent.

  7. ViperBorg says:

    That’s awesome. Too bad he got busted.

  8. WV.Hillbilly says:

    This guy looks about 12 years old.
    Didn’t his parents miss him?

  9. RandomHookup says:

    Seems all the rent freaks live in New England. There was a gentleman who built a secret underground home on the island of Nantucket and lived there for 10 years. Public authorities were also not amused.

    • shinazzle23 says:

      Probably started with Thoreau:

      “I went to the [mall] because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

  10. junkmail says:

    @RandomHookup: Got a link for that? I used to live in Nantucket and don’t remember hearing about that. Wouldn’t surprise me, however. There were definitely some “interesting” characters that lived there.

  11. Nytmare says:

    I guess they had electrical outlets — somewhere to plug in their lights and cookware. Also, I wonder how they muffled the sounds from their video games.

  12. ARP says:

    We had a similar event in Chicago. I guy lived in the spaces of one of our bridges that raise and lower on the river. He tapped into the power from the bridge, he had TV, some basic furniture, etc.

    And, yes, he commented things were fine except that during the spring and summer when the bridge would raise all the time for boat traffic. I guess he found a place to put his TV and valuables and let everything else get turned over. Looking for link.

  13. Mariallena says:

    Life imitates Seinfeld!

    This story reminds me of that episode where Elaine pretends she lives in the janitor’s closet so that she can get delivery from the Chinese restaurant that only serves the north side of the street.

  14. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    Beats living in your moms basement i guess. Besides, you seen the rent prices in Providence?

  15. theWolf says:


    I remember that guy. It was kind of a sad story–the guy was mentally ill and could have lived with his father, but he would inevitably wander off on his own.

  16. theWolf says:


    So she could order the flounder!

  17. ElizabethD says:

    Rhode Island represent!

    Yeah, housing costs are totally crazy here.

  18. LucyInTheSky says:


    seriously. this tops everything.

  19. supra606 says:

    This sounds like a great plot for a story except it’s been done already although I can’t remember the name of it. Wow. That is just so cool. Here I sit rotting away behind a desk while someone else is doing this.

  20. toomanyplugs says:

    The first guy in the video is wearing a Us Rowing sweatshirt! Neat!

  21. Leah says:

    @supra606: in Grey’s Anatomy, Callie lived in the basement of the hospital for at least a season or two. She only got caught one night when she was playing really loud music.

    I’m pretty darn impressed with this guy. I’ve always wanted to do something like this. I hope the mall is now going to find a way to utilize that space so it doesn’t go to waste.

  22. RandomHookup says:
  23. Trai_Dep says:

    Bet he read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid.

  24. junkmail says:

    @RandomHookup: LOL holy crap, that’s awesome! Thanks for digging up the link, appreciate it. Can’t believe I didn’t hear about that.

  25. junkmail says:

    @RandomHookup: crap, first comment got eaten… Anyways, thanks for digging up the link, appreciate that. Can’t believe I didn’t hear about it. :)

  26. junkmail says:

    okay, it got regurgitated… stupid comment system

  27. tkozikow says:

    “The artists built a cinderblock wall and nondescript utility door to keep the loft hidden from the outside world.”

    How do you manage this without SOMEONE asking “so, what are you building?” This had to take several days, truckloads of material, a place to mix mortar, etc. The concept, however, is brilliant and would be pretty cool to see someone else pull this off.

  28. mandarin says:

    No toilet… So where did you do ummm your business?

  29. royal72 says:

    fucking brilliant!

  30. lestat730 says:

    That is awesome. Actually, awesome does this no justice. There is no word to describe how cool this is.

  31. Bay State Darren says:

    It just occurred to me, this whole thing was a Sliders episode years ago.

    [Hopefully I’m not posting this after everyoe’s done reading this thread.]

  32. Yep says:

    Don’t worry about where the kid’s living now. He’s got a sublet going in The Dunk…

  33. girly says:

    Did they really build anything? Sounds more like “man secretly furnishes area of mall as an apartment”

  34. wring says:

    aaaw this is my greatest dream ever! next to living in the museum of natural history of course.

  35. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    That would be cool only if you got to wander around the mall at night, a la Dawn of the Dead. Otherwise, you’re really just living in a niche of any random parking garage, which sounds a lot less cool.

  36. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    because “artist” sounds so much better than “homeless youths”

  37. UpsetPanda says:

    I’ve worked at a mall, so I’ve walked plenty in the inner tunnels of a mall and I know that with enough ingenuity, you can stay there and not be detected. The walls are really thick (most likely all concrete) and I don’t even think mall security pays too much attention to the inner workings at night. I think there might be cameras, but probably not at that mall because they couldn’t have escaped being seen on them.

  38. Tacoma would of known ya says:

    Secrets of the Shopping Mall by Richard Peck. Great book.

  39. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Hmm, I think it’s rather cool. It does make me wonder how he got away with building a cinder-block wall and door, although everyone probably assumed he was a contractor and probably figured he was supposed to be doing that. He says that he identified the space during mall construction (the space was used to store construction materials), so everyone probably figured it was a locked storage area.

    I am amazed that he got away with it for four years before getting caught..but then again, it wouldn’t be unusual for somebody to be going into or coming out of a storage closet. People tend not to notice things that they consider to be ordinary.

    I’m assuming he only used it during normal mall hours?

  40. swalve says:

    One persons squatter is another’s “artist”, I guess.

  41. Trae says:

    @Cassifras: Except the guy isn’t homeless. He also has a real home, and an actual job.

  42. girly says:

    I see now…they built one wall and a door.

  43. RagingTowers says:

    He was just reenacting Dawn of the Dead ’78. Cut the guy a break, least he didn’t attack the Hari Krisnas…

  44. thepounder says:

    @lestat730: I believe the word to describe the awesomeness of this would be — Scrumtrillescent

  45. JayXJ says:

    I worked in a half empty mall for about a year. This doesn’t surprise me a bit. There were a couple of rooms off one of the service corridors that NOBODY could find keys to, or remember what it was for (old, old mall). The chief engineer didn’t figure it was worth the effort to drill the locks to open them. Now I wonder if we had squatters.

  46. dokieartiechokie says:

    Huzzah! I love these guys!

  47. lws1984 says:

    Just for the record, the mall in question doesn’t play any Muzak. Or normal music, for that matter.

    Also, there aren’t many security cameras in the parking garage. Or the mall itself, either.
    There are plenty of rent-a-cops, though. They’re clueless. Can’t tell the difference between an Apple store and the food court.

  48. @trai_dep: I thought exactly the same thing. Man, that was an awesome book.

    I used to go to the Providence Place Mall all the time when I lived nearer to Rhode Island. It was a good mall, although I once lost my car because I had forgotten where I parked. I didn’t look forward to living at the mall, that’s for sure!

  49. Canadian Impostor says:

    Providence has some cool stuff going on, RIP Fort Thunder:


  50. Colleen says:

    This may be an extreme case, but this sort of thing is common to Providence. A lot of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) students live(d) in illegal spaces. A few years ago around 20-30(this could be off its been a while) people got evicted from warehouses just outside of Providence(Olneyville) who’d been living there for much longer than this guy. They were told that the warehouses were being demolished to build a wal-mart… which still hasn’t happened. That only hits the tip of the iceberg, Providence is a strange town.