SAVING THE DAY? The Industrial Trust Tower, known as the “Superman” building locally, is set to become vacant. Cornish Associates head Arnold “Buff” Chace Jr. says tax credits will be needed for the structure to be transformed.
Smart-growth and economic-stimulus arguments haven’t convinced state leaders to bring back Rhode Island’s historic-tax-credit program for the past four years, but perhaps the sight of Providence’s tallest and most recognizable building vacant will.
The historic Industrial Trust Tower is set to lose its remaining Bank of America workers this spring just as supporters of the historic-tax-credit program make their latest push to bring the program back in the state legislature.
If the so-called “Superman” building is going to be transformed into a mixed-use apartment building, as developer Cornish Associates would like, supporters say state tax credits will be essential to make it work.
“It will require state historic credits,” said Cornish Associates President and CEO Arnold “Buff” Chace Jr., about a 111 Westminster St. redevelopment project. “One of the realities is the costs of projects in Providence are 80 percent to 90 percent of what it costs in Boston, but the rents are half of Boston’s. As a straight-up deal, they do not work, so as a community we have to decide whether we want to make them competitive.”
The future of the Superman building is only one of the reasons historic-tax-credit supporters are optimistic in 2013.
For the first time since the program was suspended in 2008, a proposal for restoring it has been included in a governor’s budget and both the House speaker and Senate president have said they want to bring it back.
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s proposal would restore the program largely as it was when it was put on ice, offering credits worth 25 percent of the approved rehabilitation costs of buildings as long as they comply with state and federal historic-preservation rules.
There are dozens of prominent, old buildings across the state that could see their chances of restoration boosted significantly by tax credits, a number that will likely increase in May when developers holding leftover credits will lose them if they don’t show construction progress.