New ideas urged for ‘Superman’ reuse

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

The stains and chips in the façade of Providence’s “Superman Building” become more noticeable with each year of deferred maintenance and emptiness. More

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REAL ESTATE

New ideas urged for ‘Superman’ reuse

PBN FILE PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
A SINGLE BOUND? In 2013, conversations about High Rock’s $114.7 million renovation plan to create the city’s largest residential structure at the so-called “Superman Building” stalled on the request for $39 million in direct state assistance.

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 3/10/14

(Corrected, March 10, 12 p.m.)

The stains and chips in the façade of Providence’s “Superman Building” become more noticeable with each year of deferred maintenance and emptiness.

One year after former tenant Bank of America’s departure, Rhode Island’s tallest building, formerly known as the Industrial Trust building, at 111 Westminster St., appears no closer to the major overhaul it needs.

The building’s owner, High Rock Development, and local development partner Cornish Associates have not given up their push for public help to renovate a building many observers see as an economic liability rather than an asset.

Last month, High Rock began a new lobbying and marketing plan to generate public support for a residential conversion. It included a 111 Westminster St. website and blog, plus tours of the building for prospective tenants with bedroom furniture where desks and photocopiers once stood.

In 2013, conversations about High Rock’s $114.7 million renovation plan to create the city’s largest residential structure stalled on the request for $39 million in direct state assistance, in addition to a city property tax treaty and federal historic tax credits.

Neither Mayor Angel Taveras, nor any state political leaders have said they would consider investing that level of public resources in a private residential real estate deal, even if it involved the most visible address in the state.

High Rock is working on details of a new public-private-partnership proposal that could be made public as early as this week. Cornish Managing General Partner Arnold “Buff” Chase said last week the renovation “cannot take place” without public assistance but that he was “very sensitive to the concerns from the state” about that need.

Unlike last year, High Rock is offering to “guarantee completion” of the redevelopment and help fund an endowment for the improvement of Kennedy Plaza. And last week as part of the building tour, rents in a renovated Superman Building were set between $1,100 per month for a studio and $2,700 per month for two-bedrooms.

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