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2011
May 10

Providence Journal: " Arcade store opening a hoax"

Posters placed on the doors of the Arcade over the weekend prompted some bemused discussions among city merchants regarding the fate of the historic building.

The posters, and an associated website, claim an entity called ProVide Marketplace will soon move into the vacant Arcade, which was recently listed among the city’s “Ten Most Endangered Properties” by the Providence Preservation Society.

But the co-owner of Granoff Associates, which owns the building and the empty lot next door, have never heard of ProVide Marketplace, or the two people listed as the entity’s co-founders — Giancarlo Mostaccioli and Tommy Pacheco.

“I had nothing to do with the posters,” said Evan Granoff, of the family-owned Granoff Associates.

Granoff said he’s never talked to the two men or anyone else associated with the organization, which claims it will open May 21. Currently, there are no definite plans for the building.

Joelle Crane, who handles merchant programs for the Providence Foundation, said she arrived back in the city Monday morning after a weekend trip to find the local blogosphere abuzz with postings about the group. But she’s never heard of them and wondered whether it was simply a way to point out the building’s current state.

“It’s an interesting joke,” she said.

There are perhaps some tell-tale signs the whole thing may be a spoof.

The ProVide website claims that, in 2009, “the Providence City Council responded to decades-long pressure from the local community by allowing the owners of the Westminster Arcade to sell the historic shopping center to ProVide’s co-owners.” It also claims the City Council approved a “rezoning plan” allowing ProVide to open a grocery store in the Arcade.

David Ortiz, press secretary for Mayor Angel Taveras, said the city looked into the matter and concluded it is a hoax. They have not spoken with the group.

The ProVide website also notes it will celebrate the opening of its “new branch” later this month at 66 Weybosset St. — the address for the Arcade parking garage.

A search of the business filings database of the secretary of state’s office turns up no incorporation papers for the “ProVide Marketplace Corporation.”

And, the ProVide website claims it was created as a not-for-profit organization in 2009 by the “Straw Men Group.” Straw man is the term used for a weak or even fabricated person set up to serve as a cover for another person or group.

Crane said Evan Granoff has been “thoughtful and methodical” about his search for a development deal that works for the Arcade and the vacant land adjacent to it.

The Arcade, built in 1828, is considered one of the first enclosed shopping malls in America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its fate has been in limbo for the past few years, after plans for an adjacent hotel and residential tower fell through.

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