Make-believe Main Street

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  November 10, 2009

Retired sales manager Al Cusa, 67, walking his English coonhound Piper on a recent afternoon, paused to talk about life at the mall. Cusa, who rents a two-bedroom apartment at the Commons with his wife, says the development doesn’t compare to the main drag in his hometown in Long Island.

“There were a lot more restaurants,” he said, “a lot more jewelers.”

But the guys at the Right Click were quite helpful when he ran into some computer trouble recently, he said. And while the complex feels a bit transitory — there are more than a few college kids, here, a few partial to late-night, drunken swims in the pool – some of the older crowd have been gathering for regular dinners at the clubhouse.

“We enjoy it,” Cusa said.

Just down the road, Kevin Saunders, 30, says he recently moved up from Virginia with his wife Jen, 32, and daughter Ava, almost 2, to attend graduate school.

Before they came north, a relative visiting Rhode Island stopped by the development and offered a mixed assessment. “I don’t know,” Kevin recalled her saying, “it’s a little strange — it’s this fake village.”

But the Saunders clan has taken to the place. Jen, who teaches pilates, walks to work at the Gold’s Gym on the other side of the development. And she recalls the Commons’ summer concert series with a certain amount of fondness.

“People would pack their picnic baskets, bring their coolers, and hang out,” she said.

Positively Main Street. Sort of.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at

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