That’s right … Let it go Bankrupt.

The “Superman Building”, yes, the building that managed to render the word “iconic”, ummm Not Iconic? … Named not for its use as a set for the Superman television series, but merely because of its passing resemblance, has no value whatsoever.

We’ve known that for quite some time. The difference now? Election Year Shenanigans. The building that literally no one cares about is a political football, particularly given its geographic & mental proximity to none other than the Real Estate Empire of Trust Fund Baby, Perennial Candidate Joseph Paolino, whose talk show featured a particularly graceless floating of the current “Trial Balloon-We’re deep in talks .. really, this time it’s serious fellas” by none other than Governor Dan McKee. And as always, given the absence of any real details, (You’ll know what’s in the sausage once the redevelopment is done?), rampant speculation is the order of the day.

Given the literal bullet The State of Rhode Island just dodged with another Star Vanity Project, The Paw-Woo-Sox, which featured 10’s of millions of dollars in cost overruns … and a near absence of the oft ballyhooed Ancillary Development, one Might. Just. Think. Twice. about dipping their toes in the waters of Corporate Welfare.

Nope. Somehow a broke city like Providence, and an even broker state like Rhode Island, always seems to be able to issue a Bond, or establish a TIF (Tax Incentive Financing) District. ‘Causes, you know, the “investment” will pay for itself.

And, as is always the case, there are so many open questions.

If in fact, redevelopment of the building is a sound investment, why not reach out to the Dreaded Free Market for investment capital? In the past, Owner/Developer High Rock Development has encountered no difficulties in raising capital. Why do they need “us”? Have we not learned, post #38Studios #38Pawsox that taxpayer money, money placed in trust, has no place as seed capital for risky investments? And please, please don’t tell me that this is a case for The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.

Is there an appetite for this type of mixed-use residential retail in downtown Providence? Prior projects, despite promises, have turned to dormitory housing for occupancy. And in case y’all forgot? The Fane Monstrosity looms large over Down City.

Why is the State of Rhode Island participating in what is essentially a bail out? What responsibility does a State have to a private investor? Why not let The Free Market purchase/redevelop the property after bankruptcy adjusts the market value?

Meanwhile, some fun facts. According to the State of Massachusetts Secretary of State Website, current owner High Rock Development LLC corporation was involuntarily dissolved on June 30, 2021. Interestingly, The Coalition was unable to find any reference to the Company on the corresponding Rhode Island SOS Website. We have reached out Secretary Gorbea’s Office for clarification.

The influential website lists the status of the development as “Abandoned”, with a 115M project value. The Coalition has yet to find out “The Ask” from the developer.

Superman Building - Construction Journal


Finally, there was that pesky near tax sale. It was a 444K$ “Internal Error”. Hate when that happens. What is the current financial condition of High Rock? And, yes, taxpayers have a right to know.

One Comment

  1. Glen Bennett says:

    Is more commercial square footage of value in this here new digital age? I think not. But the Industrial Bank Building exists. It has some historical value. Demolishing it seems absurd – proximity to adjoining buildings and disposal of the debris are daunting. However of course it requires maintenance and upkeep if it is to remain.
    The developer is on the hook for the investment and one would hope, property taxes. So what’s a municipality to do?
    3 sides of that building get exposed to sunlight for some part of each sunny day. The building is already standing, might as well put it to use. Put solar panels on each of 3 faces, perhaps in place of the windows. Tie it into the grid, but also employ kinetic storage for times of darkness. Utilize the existing elevator shafts to raise a few tons of mass to the 26th floor using electricity generated during daylight hours. At night, let the elevators descend generating electricity for a couple of hours, next day do it again. Also install battery storage in the ample interior floor space.
    Put a restaurant on the top floor. Maybe a few condos, a museum, stores on the street level.
    The costs would be minimal. It would generate revenue. Anybody had a salesman knock on your door or call on the phone offering to put solar panels on your roof? How is this – not that?
    The developer should be given the chance to participate while appreciating that he is presently holding the bag and any deal is financially better for him than the present situation. The world gave him lemons – let’s make lemonade or put another way…Let’s not make him rich, let’s just make hay while the sun shines.

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