‘Superman’ building renovation to begin this month

PROVIDENCE – The development team behind the conversion of the “Superman” building at 111 Westminster St. announced the first phase of the project will begin sometime this month. 

Also known as the Industrial National Bank Building, owner and developer High Rock Westminster LLC said Thursday it has selected Consigni Construction Co. Inc. to head up the redevelopment of the historic building that has sat vacant for more than a decade. 

The plan calls for 300 residential apartments, with 20% deed restricted, 8,000 square feet of commercial office space and 26,000 square feet of retail and event space. 

“The process to begin the redevelopment and repurposing of 111 Westminster St. has finally arrived,” said High Rock manager, David Sweetser, in a statement. “We have the utmost confidence in Consigli as they have handled rehabilitation and landmark restoration projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.” 

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High Rock bought the building for $33 million in 2008, but the assessed value is now $14.2 million, according to the city’s 2022 tax records. The $223 million project was originally projected to begin in 2022 and should take 30 months.

All told, the deal would involve $26 million in state incentives and contributions, a $10 million loan from the city’s housing trust and a $5 million city grant; bridge financing from the Rhode Island Foundation as well as millions in federal tax credits. Last year the City Council approved a 30-year tax stabilization agreement on a 11-2 vote, which is projected to save High Rock $29 million in property taxes.

Previous construction delays had sparked criticism and questions over whether the redevelopment would ever be completed. And while supporters of the development still argue the infusion of public funds is necessary to address the blighted building, the project has garnered some local opposition to tax breaks being given to a single developer and for a residential project where monthly rents would still be out of reach financially for many city residents.

On Thursday, High Rock said it has filed a building permit application with city officials and will begin the first phase of the project encompassing a $25 million interior demolition and asbestos abatement. This phase is expected to take six to nine months, they said, adding that “no public tax dollars are being expended at this time.” 

The initial phase, which High Rock called a “top-down process,” will begin on the upper floors of the building with the installation of an exterior elevator to aid in the removal of construction debris.  

Pending city approval, trucks and dumpsters will be staged on Fulton St. during the demolition process, which will remain open to vehicle traffic. The Westminster side of the building will not be impacted. 

Both the city and state have approved financial support, including $26 million in state incentives and contributions, a $10 million loan from the city’s Housing Trust and a $5 million city grant. There is also bridge financing from the Rhode Island Foundation and millions in federal tax credits. 

Last year the city council approved a 30-year tax stabilization agreement which is projected to save High Rock $29 million in property taxes.  

On Thursday Mayor Brett P. Smiley said the announcement was “exciting news for our city.”

“The Superman Building is an important part of our skyline, our downtown community and our city’s character. I look forward to seeing construction start and bringing a new, productive use to this historic building,” he said.

Smiley spokesperson Josh Estrella confirmed the city has not committed any additional funding outside of what has already been approved. 

Founded in 1905, Consigli has handled hundreds of construction and restoration projects for residential, corporate and government clients. In February the company was awarded a $69 million contract from the U.S. National Park Service to restore the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Built in 1928, the 428-feet-tall skyscraper has consistently topped the Providence Preservation Society’s list of Most Endangered Properties and was featured on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered list in 2019. The building has been vacant since 2013 when Bank of America left.

Sweetser said the redevelopment “will serve as a beacon to restore the vibrance of downtown Providence.” 

(Update: Adds comments from Smiley and Estrella in 13th, 14th and 15th paragraphs.)

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com