Updated March 28 at 6:28pm

Cornish tapped to convert Superman building to apartments


PROVIDENCE - Cornish Associates has been hired to redevelop the Industrial Trust Tower at 111 Westminster St. in downtown Providence and turn the city’s tallest building into apartments, Cornish president and CEO Arnold “Buff” Chace Jr. said Tuesday.

The owner of the tower, High Rock Westminster LLC, picked Cornish to reinvent the property, known locally as the “Superman building,” late last year, Chace said, because of the Providence firm’s success revitalizing several blocks of Westminster Street.

As a first step, Cornish has commissioned a feasibility study to find out whether a residential conversion of the 26-story art-deco tower is physically and economically possible.

The study is expected to be finished by the end of March, Chace said, and the findings will be used by High Rock Development Managing Partner David Sweetser to decide whether to go ahead with construction.

“We will look at the regulations and physically if it is possible, with health, fire and safety stuff, then what is the cost and will rents support it,” Chace said.

“From my perspective as a downtown person, 200 to 300 units of housing downtown is just what the doctor ordered,” Chace said. “We need more of that and less office to have downtown revitalized for 21st century needs. I am hoping it will work.”

111 Westminster Street’s current tenant, Bank of America, has been steadily moving employees from the tower, built in 1927, to nearby offices and plans to completely vacate the building by March.

Wellesley, Mass.-based High Rock bought 111 Westminster in 2008 for $33 million, according to Providence assessor’s records.

Chace declined to say how much he expects a conversion of the tower will cost, but said it would need the state to restore its historic tax credit program, in addition to federal historic tax credits, to be viable.

Previous Cornish downtown Providence development projects include the Westminster Lofts, Peerless Lofts and new Biltmore Garage shops.


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“From my perspective as a downtown person, 200 to 300 units of housing downtown is just what the doctor ordered. We need more of that and less office to have downtown..." - Buff Chace.


If we keep developing our urban economic and business centers into luxury apartments we'll have nothing to live by and no jobs to go to. It is not just housing that makes for a thriving urban center, but JOBS and third places of social activity (cafes, shops, restaurants, theaters, clubs, etc.).

Furthermore and presumably, who are all these people who can afford to live downtown, still in the nation's state of second highest unemployment? Most Rhode Islanders and Providencians can not. We need to create industry here with a balance of housing and places of social activity. What happened to relocating state offices or converting the building into a more publicly viable space? This building is too iconic and centrally located to be put to use as someones loft or cul de sac in the sky.

There are a number of buildings downtown (i.e. The Lapham Building at Westminster and Mathewson Streets, former Providence Journal Building at 60 Eddy Street and the adjacent Kresge Building to name a few) that would be better suited for apartment conversion and when I say apartments I mean something safe and inexpensive - studio, 1 and 2 bedrooms; not $2000 for 2000 sq. ft. loft that most who'd bring life to downtown can't even afford - like artists, entrepreneurs and the so called "young professionals" whom have all left this city-state because of the lack of jobs, opportunity and reasonable housing.

Although, most of us have high hopes for Providence we seem to keep pressing forward with policy and agenda which ultimately sets us back and keeps us from competing with comparable markets. Mr. Chace has done much for our little city and I'm sure we share the similar success for it, but there has to be more to offer than converting every office and industrial building into apartments or parking lots.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | Report this

Projo article says units would range from affordable $500 a month micro units to larger luxury units. Sounds perfect and not out of reach.

Thursday, January 31, 2013 | Report this


May not be out of reach, but still completely out of touch.

Friday, February 1, 2013 | Report this

microlofts are ahead of the game.. not out of touch

Friday, February 1, 2013 | Report this

I agree

Saturday, February 2, 2013 | Report this
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