The Retail Market
Metro Providence has three major enclosed regional malls. Warwick Mall in Warwick, RI, Providence Place in Providence, RI and Emerald Square in North Attleboro, MA. Big box retail is abundant in the Route 2 corridor that is associated with Warwick Mall and along the Route 1 corridor that is associated with Emerald Square. These two retail corridors, along with the Route 6 corridor in Seekonk, are the three most regional trade areas in the metro area. While there is no enclosed regional mall in Seekonk, the concentration of box retail is very significant. Providence Place is located in the heart of downtown Providence and as a result there are no opportunities for complementary box retail. While Providence Place is successful, it serves as a complementary anchor to the vibrant entertainment and dining options that downtown Providence is well known for, as opposed to attracting box retailers. It is an urban mall that serves its purpose very well.
There are four other retail corridors that are regional in nature but not to the same degree as Warwick, North Attleboro, and Seekonk. These are Swansea, MA; North Dartmouth, MA; Taunton / Raynham, MA; and Middletown, RI.
North of Warwick Mall on Route 2 in Cranston, RI is Garden City Center, one of the first lifestyle centers built in the United States and the adjacent Chapel View, developed by Carpionato Group. Together these two projects provide some of the best specialty retail in Providence Metro.
The Crossing at Smithfield at Route 44 and I-295 in Smithfield, RI is the most dominant power center serving the northwest section of metro area.
Besides these prominent traditional regional retail areas, the City of Providence has many older neighborhoods that are enjoying a rejuvenation through gentrification by younger people moving back into the city. Among these are the areas of Federal Hill and those surrounding Brown University. Federal Hill, originally known as Providence’s “Little Italy”, is now recognized as one of the top culinary destinations in the country. Thayer Street and Wayland Square have transformed into some of the best street retail in New England due to their proximity to Brown University. Last but certainly not least is the coastal town of Newport, RI. Known for hosting America’s Cup Yacht Races and its’ historic 19th century mansions, Newport is an iconic tourist destination with wonderful waterside street retail and specialty restaurants. Known for its harbor filled with oversized yachts during the summer months, Newport has grown to be a year round destination.
Community retail corridors are located along Route 6 in Johnston, RI; Route 1A in Pawtucket, RI; Route 1 in Westerly, RI; Route 1 in North Kingston, RI; Route 106 at Route 123 in Easton, MA; Route 146A in North Smithfield, RI; and Route 116 in Lincoln, RI.
Grocery stores operating in Providence Metro include Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, Big Y, Dave’s Marketplace, Aldi, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Walmart Supercenter, Price Rite, and Save-A-Lot.
Providence Metro has a long been known as a center for manufacturing of costume jewelry and silverware. This industry in the region dates back to 1794, when Seril and Nehemiah Dodge opened a jewelry store in Providence selling jewelry and silverware from a process they had developed for coating lesser metals with gold and silver. The Dodge brothers are credited with creating what would become the costume jewelry industry and making Providence Metro the dominant center of that industry for nearly the next two centuries. At the height of the region’s success in the 1960’s, 75% of the costume jewelry made in the world came from Providence. Shrinking demand and foreign competition caused Providence’s dominance to shrink during the last decades of the 20th century. Although Providence Metro still has the largest concentration of costume jewelry jobs in the United States, its worldwide market share is now at 12%. The most recognizable company in this industry cluster today is Alex and Ani, which was founded in Cranston, RI in 2004 and has since become a national success story.
The other industry which has deep historical routes in Providence Metro is the textile industry. At the beginning of the 20th century ½ of all print cloth in the world was produced in New Bedford and Fall River. While the textile industry has largely disappeared from the region, Fall River and New Bedford are rebounding. New Bedford is focused on developing its advantages as a deepwater commercial port, its ranking as the number one value fishing port in the United States and its efforts to become the nation’s center for offshore wind energy development. Fall River is working to expand its fledgling life sciences and technology cluster by marketing its low cost of doing business and its shovel ready development sites.
Many other specialty manufacturers provide significant employment in categories such as optical products, specialty packaging, electrical and mechanical systems. The largest manufacturing segment is in the defense systems category including such major companies as Raytheon and General Dynamics as well as the Corporate Headquarters for Textron.
Financial Services and Insurance is the largest industry cluster in the region, particularly in downtown Providence. Corporate Headquarters for this segment include Citizens Financial, Amica and FM Global along with large operations for Fidelity Investments and Brighthouse Financial.
Other well-known companies with Corporate Headquarters in Metro Providence include CVS, the largest drug store chain in the U.S.; Hasbro, the second largest toy maker in the U.S.; and IGT, the world’s leading gaming technology and services company.
With over 450 miles of coastline, the ocean not only helps fuel tourism as the second largest industry employer, it also serves as an economic driver for several other large employment sectors. The Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay provide numerous economic development opportunities in industries such as ocean tech, boat fabrication, defense applications and renewable energy.
The University of Rhode Island and its internationally respected Graduate School of Oceanography is a world leader in ocean and marine expertise. Researchers at this public flagship university are leading discoveries that not only help to protect and understand our environment but also lead to the commercialization of these new discoveries that ultimately create high paying jobs in the region.
In addition, the region is home to elite government sponsored defense entities such as the Naval Station Newport, the Naval War College, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. The immense research capabilities of these elite entities are enhanced by a cluster of defense manufacturing firms, shipbuilders and smaller supply chain companies, with maritime cyber security capabilities moving into the forefront. The synergies of these related clusters is expected to create significant job growth opportunities moving forward.
Area colleges and enrollment
|University of Rhode Island||Kingston||16,700|
|Johnson & Wales University||Providence||10,600|
|Rhode Island College||Providence||9,200|
|Roger Williams University||Bristol||4,700|
|Salve Regina University||Newport||2,600|
|Rhode Island School of Design||Providence||2,400|
|Naval War College||Newport||600|
|General Dynamics – Electric Boat||Submarine Components||North Kingstown, RI|
|CVS||HQ – Retail Pharmacies||Woonsocket, RI|
|Fidelity Investments||Financial Services||Smithfield, RI|
|Citizens Financial||HQ – Corporate Offices – Retail Banking||Providence, RI|
|Acushnet||HQ – Golf Equipment (Titleist, Footjoy, Pinnacle)||Fairhaven / New Bedford / North Dartmouth, MA|
|Twin Rivers Casino||Casino, Hotel & Entertainment||Lincoln, RI|
|DePuy Synthes||HQ – Biomed – Orthopedic and Neurological||Raynham, MA|
|Amica||HQ – Insurance – Property and Life||Lincoln, RI|
|Brighthouse Financial||Financial Services||Warwick, RI|
|Hasbro||HQ – Toys and Media||Pawtucket/ Providence, RI|
|FM Global||HQ – Property Insurance||Johnston / West Gloucester, RI|
|Raytheon||Defense Systems||Portsmouth / Middeltown, RI|
|IGT||Gaming Technology for Casinos, Public Lotteries and Consumers||Providence / West Greenwich / Conventry, RI|
|General Dynamics – Mission Systems||Defense Systems||Taunton, MA|
|Mars Plastics||Plastic Insection Molding||Providence, RI|
|Bank of America||Corporate Offices – Banking||Providence, RI|
|Joseph Abboud Manufacturing||Men’s Clothing||New Bedford, MA|
|Amgen||Biotech||West Greenwich, RI|
|Philipa Lightolier||Architectural Lighting||Fall River, MA|
|Tiffany and Company||Jewelry Manufacturing||Cumberland, RI|
|Masters of Design (Herff Jones)||Commemorative Rings||Warwick, RI|
|Kenney Manufacturing||Window Hardware and Bath||Warwick, RI|
|Ocean State Job Lot||HQ – Close Out Retailer||North Kingstown, RI|
|Taco Comfort Solutions||HQ – Heating, Cooling and Plumbing Products||Cranston, RI / Fall River, MA|
|Teknor Apex||HQ – Custom Polymer Compounds||Pawtucket, RI|
|Amtrol||Commercial and Residential Water Systems||West Warwick, RI|
|Embrace Home Loans||Residential Mortgages||Middletown, RI|
|Dassault Systemes||3D Software||Johnston, RI|
|Ross Simons||HQ – Multi Channel Retailer- Jewlery||Cranston, RI|
|FGX International||HQ – Non Prescription Eyeglasses and Sunglasses||Smithfield, RI|
|Hub Folding Box||Consumer Product Packaging||Mansfield, MA|
|Jewel Case||Custom Packaging for Jewelry||Providence, RI|
|Bradford Soap||HQ – Specialty Bar Soap||West Warwick, RI|
|Avid Products||Audio Headsets||Middletown, RI|
|Senesco Marine||Shipyard – Bargers, Tugboats and Commercial Vessels||North Kingstown, RI|
|North Atlantic Distribution||Port of Entry – Automobiles||North Kingstown, RI|
|Kenyon Industries||Military and Commercial Fabrics||Kenyon, RI|
|Alex and Ani||HQ – Multi Channel Retailer – Costume Jewelry||Cranston, RI|
|Sensata Technologies||HQ – Sensors and Controls||Attleboro, MA|
|Textron||HQ – Defense Systems, Aviation, Helicopters, Industrial and Finance||Providence, RI|
|Ahead||Golfing Hats, Apparel and Accessories||New Bedford, MA|
|Hope Global||Textile Products||Cumberland, RI|
|Leach Garner||Precious Metals Products – Jewlery, Industrial, Government||Attleboro, MA|
|Blue Harvest Fisheries||Fresh and Frozen Seafood||New Bedford / Fairhaven, MA|
|APC by Schneider Electric||HQ – Power Protection Products||West Kingston, RI|
|K and M Accessories||Costume Jewelry||Providence, RI|
|A and H Worldwide||HQ – Packaging, Labeling and Loss||Johnston, RI|
|ATI||Steel Mill – Specialty Metals||New Bedford, MA|
|Nortek||HQ – HVAC and Security Systems||Providence, RI|
|Interpak||HQ – Custom Retail Product||Pawtucket, RI|
Downtown Providence has gone through one of the most remarkable transformations of any urban center in the United States over the last 30 years. Once considered old and deteriorating, that all changed with Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s efforts to rejuvenate the downtown core by uncovering and opening up the Providence River as it runs through downtown. The river had been paved over in the late 19th and early 20th century to make way for railroad expansion and its associated commerce. The result was a terribly bifurcated central core.
With $600 million in local, state and federal funding in the late 70’s and early 80’s the Providence River was opened up to become a centerpiece for downtown redevelopment. Beginning in the late 80’s, project after project has been added to the mosaic of downtown Providence and its connection to adjacent neighborhoods which were previously detached by railroad infrastructure over the Providence River. Most impactful in these redevelopment efforts were the addition of the Rhode Island Convention Center, Dunkin Donuts Center, Omni Hotel and Providence Place Mall in the 1990’s. These developments brought credibility and traffic to downtown that previously had not existed.
Subsequent development has continued through today, including a significant residential component which had not existed for decades previously. The result has been the reconnecting of the downtown core to the adjacent areas of Federal Hill, Brown University and the State Capitol Building.
The connection of Brown University to downtown cannot be understated as to how important this was and continues to be for the revitalization effort. Founded in 1764, Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution that is the seventh oldest college in the United States. In addition to its core graduate and undergraduate programs, Brown has its School of Engineering, School of Professional Studies, School of Public Health and the Alpert Medical School. Student enrollment is comprised of 6,600 undergraduates, 2,300 graduate students, and 550 medical school students.
Brown’s campus consists of 235 buildings on 143 acres of urban landscape. Located in an area known as College Hill on Providence’s East Side, the campus is located in a federally listed architectural district with a dense concentration of Colonial era buildings. Benefit Street, on the western edge of campus, contains one of the finest cohesive collections of restored 17th and 18th century architecture in the United States.
Brown’s campus has always been a unique asset within the city of Providence with its stunning historical architecture, elite educational ranking and one of the most walkable urban campuses in the country. Unfortunately for most of the 20th century it was separated from Providence’s downtown core. That all changed with the opening up of the Providence River to the benefit of both Brown and the downtown redevelopment efforts. Now both of these areas feed off each other to create an urban tapestry that makes Providence one of the most vibrant and livable small cities in the country.
Brown is not the only university that has had a major impact on Downtown Providence’s rebirth. The College Of Culinary Arts and the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University, also located adjacent to Providence’s downtown core, offer some of the best programs in the country for the restaurant industry. Johnson and Wales graduates from these programs have realized they can remain in Providence and avoid the pressure cooker kitchens and high startup costs of other larger nearby cities. This has resulted in Downtown Providence becoming a hotspot for young chefs and creative restaurant concepts. Many of these new restaurants are being located in former old industrial buildings that are being rehabbed by these young food entrepreneurs. The result is a further extension of the rebirth of Downtown Providence.
|Providence Metro Population
|Providence County, RI||629,000|
|Bristol County, MA||551,000|
|Kent County, RI||162,000|
|Washington County, RI||123,000|
|Newport County, RI||79,000|
|Bristol County, RI||44,000|