PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The owner of the Superman building, Rhode Island's tallest, wants to convert the building from office space into apartments and needs historic tax credits to do it, the company said Tuesday.
High Rock Development, a real estate investment and development fund based in Newton, Mass., owns the art deco-style building, the most recognizable building on Providence's skyline. It is known locally as the Superman building for its similarity to the Daily Planet building in the old TV show. It has housed a bank since it was first opened in 1928, but is about to become vacant when Bank of America moves out next month.
Bill Fischer, a spokesman for High Rock, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the company believes the best use of the building is to convert it from office space to residential rental space and that historic tax credits will be required to do the work.
He wouldn't specify the amount of tax credits the company believes it needs but said that will become clear in around three to four weeks after work concludes on feasibility and economic impact studies the company has commissioned. The state's historic tax credit program ended in 2008, but some lawmakers are pushing to revive it.
The building has 350,000 square feet, and High Rock hopes to build around 290 apartments of various sizes, Fischer said. The first floor, which now includes a grand lobby with high ceilings and marble columns, could be used as a restaurant or other commercial space, but the rest would be residential, he said. Among the issues High Rock is looking at is how to address parking since the building does not have it, Fischer said.
Fischer said it doesn't make sense to keep it as offices at a time when residential occupancy rates downtown are more than 90 percent.
"Downtown Providence is in real need for residential rental space. It's not in dire or desperate need for office space," Fischer said. "When you start to talk about the future of Providence and what it's going to look like in 5 to 10 years ... it makes perfect sense."
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed is among the lawmakers pushing to bring the historic tax credit program back as a means for economic development in a state with a stalled economy and an abundance of historic and abandoned buildings. Lawmakers are considering a proposal to revive it this year.
"We think the Superman building should be a part of that conversation," Fischer said.
A spokesman for Paiva Weed told the AP that he didn't know whether she supports the project getting tax credits.
Rhode Island is still reeling from a $75 million state loan guarantee it granted in 2010 to 38 Studios, a video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling that went belly up last year.
Fischer said that unlike 38 Studios, which was run by a baseball player with no business experience, High Rock brings experience in the industry and would make a significant investment in the project.
"We're talking about an investment in downtown Providence, which is really downtown Rhode Island. We're talking about an iconic structure. We're talking about economic development. We're talking about job creation," he said.
Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this report.