Governor: Superman Building will be brought ‘back to life’

Apr 12, 2022, 12:38 PM | Updated: 12:39 pm

After years of neglect, the most recognizable feature on the Providence skyline, the Superman Building, will be rescued.

Rhode Island’s governor announced Tuesday that the building’s owner is planning to turn the vacant landmark into an apartment building with offices and shops, with help from state and city funding.

Officially known as the Industrial Trust Building, at around 430 feet (130 meters), it is the tallest building in Rhode Island. It has been vacant for nearly a decade.

Gov. Dan McKee said the $220 million redevelopment project will reinvigorate downtown Providence and bring the Superman Building “back to life.” Opened in 1928, it resembles the Daily Planet headquarters in the old “Adventures of Superman” TV show.

McKee said $26 million will come from state housing and economic development programs and $15 million will come from the city through a loan and a direct contribution. Massachusetts-based High Rock Development committed to providing more than $42 million, and will take advantage of federal tax credits and seek a tax stabilization agreement from the city, McKee added.

High Rock Development bought the building in 2008. In 2013, the sole tenant, Bank of America, moved out. The value of the building dropped and it fell into disrepair. The developer sued the bank and the bank countersued, arguing it spent millions of dollars on maintenance before it moved out.

The $54 million lawsuit was settled in 2017, just before a trial was scheduled to begin in federal court. The terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed. At that time, the 26-story vacant building, at the heart of downtown Providence, had become a symbol of Rhode Island’s economic decline.

The Art Deco-style skyscraper remained hard to fill because of its age and renovation needs. It was included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of the nation’s most endangered historic places in 2019 because of its mounting maintenance needs after years of vacancy.

The new plans call for 285 residential apartments, 20% of which will be dedicated to affordable housing, 8,000 square feet of commercial office space and a mix of retail, event and community spaces in the large banking hall.

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Governor: Superman Building will be brought ‘back to life’