Money Watchers: Mayor pleased with plans for Rhode Island Mall

Winstanley Enterprises

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said Thursday that he's looking forward to the transformation of the vacant Rhode Island Mall into an outlet center.

The outlet mall will house 40 to 60 stores that developers say shoppers will recognize.

"By the end of the year they tell us that they will be announcing the names that they already have reached contracts with," Avedisian said.

The plan is to start construction in the first quarter of next year and to be open for the holiday shopping season of 2015.

The nearest outlet malls are south of Rhode Island in Clinton, Connecticut, and north of Rhode Island in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

The transformation will not only be the location in Rhode Island with outlets, it will stand out from its competitors to the north and the south.

"And it will be one of the only factory outlet malls where you're interior. So if it's a bad day and it's raining, you can still go there, get in the building once and get to all the factory stores from the inside," Avedisian said.

Originally, developers planned to turn the mall into a "power center" with several big box stores.

Avedisian said he's is especially pleased with the shift because the outlet mall will call for new jobs: several hundred temporary construction jobs for the renovation, and then several full-time jobs for each store.

"If you have 40 stores, normally there will be 10 employees per store, so that's at least 400 there. There will probably be another 300 to 400 on the construction jobs in the short term. So, a great boost to the economy," Avedisian said.

The mall struggled until it closed in 2011. Three anchor stores remain: Sears, Kohl's and Walmart.

Avedisian said the transformation will be good for not just the economy, but morale in the city.

"It shows that we're alive and we're vibrant and we're moving forward," Avedisian said.

There are no zoning issues to worry about.