The revived Rhode Island historic-tax-credit program unveiled by lawmakers last week likely won’t help the state’s tallest vacant building, but will be in high demand for other projects, preservation advocates say.
“It’s a win because we are getting the program restored in a fairly significant way,” said Grow Smart Rhode Island Executive Director Scott Wolf, a leader of the coalition that has backed restoring the program for the last five years. “What they’ve proposed is not as robust as would be ideal, but it’s significant. Maybe it’s not a home run, but it’s a double.”
The fiscal 2014 state budget released by House Democratic leaders last week would open up a pot of $34.5 million in funds set aside for earlier historic tax credits that have been abandoned by stalled projects.
Unlike the more open-ended proposals from Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed earlier in the year, the House budget caps historic credits at $5 million per project and at $12 million per year.
Those caps are bad news for High Rock Development LLC, the owner of the former bank headquarters at 111 Westminster St. in Providence known as the Superman Building.
High Rock, with Providence-based Cornish Associates, wants to convert the historic Superman Building into apartments. It estimates the project will cost $114.7 million and require $39 million in state assistance.
The House budget does not include any direct appropriations to the Superman Building and the $5 million ceiling on historic tax credits is likely too low to make a critical difference in getting the project built.
“Obviously, we are disappointed that support for 111 Westminster was not included in the budget that passed the House Finance Committee,” said William J. Fischer, spokesman for High Rock in an email. “Although disappointed, we readily understand the political realities of this conversation, given budgetary constraints. We will continue to have discussions with elected officials at the municipal and state level as to how 111 Westminster can once again contribute to both the state and Providence’s economy. We remain committed to Rhode Island and look forward to those discussions.”