Editorial: Lost in space, and skyrocketing real estate

Posted 6/29/23

Warren’s downtown has something other Main Streets just don’t, and they are primed to lose one of those spots on Friday. It is, for lack of a better word, a bummer.

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Editorial: Lost in space, and skyrocketing real estate


It doesn’t require a bleeding heart to feel a little blue about the situation faced by Space Cadets, as explored in our front page story this week.

One could make the argument that this is simply a reality of living in a capitalistic society. A property owner has every right to charge rent that they deem appropriate — especially taking into consideration inflation and increasingly high interest rates associated with acquiring, renovating and owning property these days.

One could also argue that such a stance ignores and sanitizes the human element from what makes a society, and specifically a small community, unique and worth visiting.

Space Cadets is one of those shops that causes intrigue simply by its existence. Its window displays, its racks of vintage clothes out for public browsing along the sidewalk, even its uniquely painted awning and interesting sign evokes a notion of curiosity for the average commuter, whether on foot, on a bike or in a car. It inspires a desire to see what the place is all about, which further encourages a stroll down Main Street to potentially find other gems like it.

It is something Warren’s downtown has that other Main Streets just don’t; a sense of authentic intrigue generated by wholly one-of-a-kind businesses, run by people as unique as the shops themselves. And Warren is primed to lose one of those spots on Friday.

It is, for lack of a better word, a bummer.

And it’s more of a bummer because there’s not really anything anyone can do about it. Space Cadets is just the latest small business to succumb to the changing world of skyrocketing real estate valuation. What Warren residents see as a staple of their Main Street, an out-of-state property management company sees as a prime piece of unrealized profit potential. And, to be fair, they are absolutely right. In Warren, a town with ever-rising stock, a Main Street storefront is highly valuable, and no renter is given any guarantee these days as to how much they’re required to pay to utilize a space they don’t own.

And who knows — that company might revitalize the space and open the door for another small business owner to come in with a similarly unique shop that fills the void left by Space Cadets, and somewhat softens the blow to the community’s fabric. But at $5,800 a month simply to breathe the building’s air, it’s hard to imagine many mom and pop shops that would succeed under such lofty financial pressure.

We have to wonder if the only thing preventing the final death blow to the few remaining classic American Main Streets populated by small, local businesses is whether or not the landlords who control those valuable parcels decide to squeeze their property for all its worth; cost to the community it happens to reside in be damned.

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Meet our staff

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.