The thought of Providence’s tallest building empty and the bright beacon at its pinnacle dark is unsettling to many working on the city’s revitalization. But local real estate analysts say Bank of America’s impending departure from 111 Westminster St. may not be as bad for the health of the financial district as some fear.
After all, sole tenant Bank of America says it has no plans – for now – to reduce the size of its Providence workforce. And the company is actively searching for 50,000 square feet of downtown office space for those employees in 111 Westminster St. who aren’t moved to other Bank of America offices nearby.
“I don’t think it is going to have a huge impact on the market,” said Karl Sherry, partner at Hayes & Sherry Real Estate Services, which lists space in several buildings. “Relative to the size of the building, I don’t think it would have that much impact because they are taking other space in downtown, so they would be going from one building to fill another vacant space. The impact would be that you would have a landmark building vacant.”
Kenneth Dill of CresaPartners Providence, which represents commercial tenants in the office market, said the impact of Bank of America’s departure on the rest of the market would depend on what 111 Westminster’s owner, High Rock Westminster LLC, decides to do with the building.
“If it is not multitenanted, I don’t think it has much effect on the rest of the market,” Dill said. “Right now it is only relevant if you are a 350,000-square-foot user, and I don’t know how many of those there are around.”
Whatever plans High Rock has for 111 Westminster, the Wellesley, Mass., real estate investment firm is not saying publicly.
“We have a company policy not to comment on any of our assets,” said David Sweetser, managing partner of High Rock Development, when reached by phone.
According to Bank of America officials, High Rock did not submit a proposal for 111 Westminster in response to Bank of America’s December request for proposals for 50,000 square feet of office space in the city.
Built in the Art Deco style by Industrial Trust in 1928, 111 Westminster St. has been known locally as the “Superman” building since the 1950s for its resemblance to the Daily Planet headquarters in the Superman television and comic-book series. (The building also has an address of 55 Kennedy Plaza for its north-facing entrance.)