All options must be on the table with the ‘Superman’ building

A 2016 report put the cost of converting the Industrial Trust, or “Superman,” tower primarily to a residential property at nearly $120 million. In fact, the iconic structure is tragically out of date. To make it useful for either residential or office use would essentially require tearing out everything to the basic structure and then rebuilding it.

It’s not clear how much in public incentives would be offered (or granted), but it seems fairly certain that they would not be enough to cover the shortfall in the investment needed.

Now, a recent report by GoLocalProv says that Hasbro has been pitched by Paolino Properties and Gilbane Development to build a new corporate headquarters on the site of the tower.

All three companies refuse to comment on the existence of the plan, much less on the particulars. But the fact that it is acceptable to consider tearing down the Superman building broaches a subject that would seem impossible. And yet, it is time to consider it.

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Tearing down the building has hard costs of its own. But for many, even more traumatic would be the loss of such a strong example of Art Deco architecture, especially across the street from the Arcade, an 1828 structure that has been successfully repurposed.

The answer, no matter the seriousness of the Hasbro plan, is that the community has to have a clear-eyed discussion about where we go with this building. Providence is starting to see positive momentum, and having a 26-story hole in the middle of its most valuable real estate just won’t do.