Downtown vision tied to ‘Superman’?

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Central to the argument for saving Providence’s Superman Building with public investment is a vision of the downtown economy driven by residents as much as office workers. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.


Downtown vision tied to ‘Superman’?

TALL ORDER: Once home to Bank of America, the so-called “Superman Building” in downtown Providence now sits vacant. Recent studies say that R.I.’s tallest building would be best utilized if it included apartments in its next iteration.
OPENING UP: Abby Fox, a spokeswoman for 111 Westminster St.’s owners, shows off the bank vault in the building.

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 5/27/13

Central to the argument for saving Providence’s Superman Building with public investment is a vision of the downtown economy driven by residents as much as office workers.

It’s a vision that’s emerged over the last two decades of downtown revitalization and would take a major leap forward if Rhode Island’s tallest building was filled with 280 apartments in the heart of the Financial District.

The new residents and their neighbors in other buildings would draw different services, such as a supermarket or expanded mass transit, than offices would.

The two recent studies of potential uses for the Superman Building at 111 Westminster St. outline the demographic and market shifts that have local developers rushing away from office construction toward rental housing.

If the studies are right, leaving the Superman Building as offices and failing to build new apartments in Providence will lead to serious oversupply in the office market, while exacerbating an apartment shortage that’s driving up rents.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most enthusiastic support for turning the Superman Building residential wasn’t paid for by property owner High Rock Development LLC, but by the city, which has pushed for continued office use.

4Ward Planning LLC of New York concluded in its report that “short of a large office tenant (e.g., large corporate user or the state) securing a minimum 50 percent of the building’s total leasable space within the next year, the viability of the [Superman Building] remaining as an office building is weak, at best.”

While High Rock has requested $39 million in state aid to renovate the building, 4Ward concluded that as much as $60 million would be a reasonable state investment to avoid having the vacant tower “destabilize” the local office market.

To support its finding that a downtown apartment tower is viable, 4Ward’s market study describes a real estate market tilting toward rentals in the wake of the subprime crash and expected to move further in that direction as the baby boomer generation enters retirement years.

Next Page
PBN Hosted

Join PBN for the best networking event and party of the winter - January 15, 2015 - the Book of Lists Party at the Providence Public Library. Reserve your spot early!
  • Best Places to Work
    Enrollment is now open for the 7th annual Best Places to Work program. Winners w ...
  • Manufacturing Awards
    Applications are now being accepted for the 2nd Annual Manufacturing Awards. Dea ...
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
    Latest News