There are good reasons for state and local officials and owners of the Industrial Trust Tower in downtown Providence to work together to save the Art Deco landmark. But not if it involves a government bailout.
The proposal by the owners for a $114.7 million retrofit to turn the “Superman Building” into apartments that includes up to $75 million in tax credits and other public financing in the package is a nonstarter. Setting aside the unfortunate link the request will create in the minds of many to the 38 Studios debacle, the proposal is unrealistic in the current economic environment.
The owners say they are only interested in a full renovation to “highest and best use,” as High Rock Development LLC spokesman William Fischer told PBN in a story on Page 5. That would be fine, of course, if they were footing the full cost. But they are not, and beyond limited tax credits they might qualify for, the state should not step in and help bail out these or any other property owners. And in this case, years of deferred maintenance helped make the property difficult to market.
If the worst happens and the owners walk away from their own sizeable investment, city and state leaders will at least have the value of the building and land to fall back on.
High Rock’s funding request actually has little in common with the now infamous 38 Studios state loan guarantee. But the legacy of that failed investment will haunt all requests for significant public financing in the state for years to come. And for already overburdened taxpayers at least, that’s a good thing. •