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Who is Michael Townsend? Artist built and lived in secret apartment in shopping mall for 4 years

The leader of an artists' cooperative has been sentenced to probation for setting up a secret apartment inside a shopping mall's parking garage as part of a project on mall life
UPDATED OCT 23, 2022
Inside Micheal Townsend's secret apartment from his 'project on mall life' (
Inside Micheal Townsend's secret apartment from his 'project on mall life' (

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND: Michael Townsend, the leader of an artists' cooperative, built an apartment with seven friends in the parking garage of the Providence Place shopping center in Rhode Island with the intention of becoming "the ultimate mall citizens." According to NBC, he and his friends lived there for up to three weeks at a time over a four-year period until the apartment was raided by security personnel. The idea to build a home in the mall came to him when he heard a radio commercial talking about how great it would be to live in the mall, Michael said.

The apartment was built in 2003 and they lived there until 2007. The apartment was equipped with all the necessary amenities and furniture for them to live there. Michael also shared the story on his website and said that when they were caught, they were two days away from installing wood floors.


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The 750-square-foot apartment was created in 2003. It was furnished with a sofa and a PlayStation (

From 1997 to 1999, when the Province Place shopping center was built, he watched the mall being raised every day, as Michael wrote on his website. He said he noticed an empty space that was used to store construction materials and remained unused after the mall opened. Later, the Daily Star reports, Michael was kicked out of his apartment by the contractors and had to find a new place. Around the same time, he heard an "enthusiastic female voice" talking about the idea of living in the mall. The real intention of this radio advertisement was that the mall was not only an ideal shopping destination but also offered everything needed for a healthy life. The mall was built by the same contractors who had asked Micheal to move out of the building. This led Micheal to believe that it was time to "develop the developers"

Michael along with his seven friends built this 750 sq feet apartment with cinderblock walls and nondescript utility doors to keep the place hidden according to NBC News. He had installed a Sony Playstation 2 which was later stolen by a burglar which led them to come to a decision of using the apartment only at night. They did not have a running water supply so they just used the mall's toilets. Micheal said that he built the place "out of a compassion to understand the mall more and life as a shopper."

It was sweet as it lasted until the day Michael and a visiting artist from Hong Kong were greeted by security guards when they returned to which Michael pleaded no contest to a trespassing charge. The spokesman for the Providence Place mall Dante Bellini Jr said about the place that it was more than "an area with stuff in it." The officials found the whole thing so intriguing that Providence Police Maj Stephen Campbell said he and the other detectives wanted to see the scene for themselves. He later said, "I was surprised at what he was able to accomplish. But what he did was clearly criminal. The mall is private property."

Even though there was a total of eight people involved in the act, it was only Michael Townsend and his ex-wife Adriana Young who identified as the mall dwellers but Michael did stay in touch with the other artists. He was given probation by a judge but was banned from the mall for life.