The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 12:42cat

Property owner Wanted to Save Rhode Island’s Tallest Building

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Property owner Wanted to Save Rhode Island’s Tallest Building The Superman Building in downtown Providence, RI. (Photo by: Jeff Nickerson)

The owner of Rhode Island’s tallest building renewed his effort on Monday to gain support for a public private partnership that would convert the vacant office building into apartments. 111 Westminster Street, formerly the Bank of America Building and commonly referred to as the Superman Building, has been empty since Bank of America removed the last of its employees from the building on April 7, 2013. High Rock Development bought the building for $33.2 million in 2008, and they invested an additional $6 million into the building. This investment quickly began to lose money due to the real estate market meltdown, and the company had to write off $24 million of its own investment.

David Sweetser, principal at High Rock Development, would like to save the building from further deterioration by converting the office space into 278 apartments. While this plan failed to gain approval nearly a year ago, Sweetser believes the building is too important to let sit abandoned. The $115 million proposal needed $75 million in public financing in addition to the $21 million in federal historic tax credits it would receive. The Rhode Island 2013 General Assembly did not provide enough aid in the budget to allow Sweetser to begin the project.

Now, High Rock Development is willing to enter into a public-private partnership, and they will guarantee a completed rebuilding project. Sweetser has brought on lobbyists and public relations professionals to help sell his plan to the city and state. He is no longer asking for specific amounts of money from the government, and he is also willing to repurpose the building to something other than a residential building. Cornish Associates is currently studying other potential uses for the building including converting it to a mix-used facility, and the company is helping the project gain support from city residents.

The 428-foot, 26-floor Superman Building was completed in 1928. The building was designed in the Art Deco style, and has remained relatively unchanged since its completion. The lantern on top of the building peak is lit a bright blue color from sundown to midnight each night, but that stopped after Bank of America left the building. The building received its nickname due to its resemblance to the Daily Planet used in the Superman comic, and it has stuck ever since. High Rock Development would like to convince people that the project to save the deteriorating building would spur the city’s economy by creating jobs and save an iconic building. Rhode Island Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox recognizes the building’s importance, but he said that last year’s plan was just too expensive and any new financial proposals would need to go through the normal legislative process.

Sources: Providence

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