Providence’s “Superman Building” Listed as Endangered by US Preservation Trust

Industrial National Bank Building in Providence. Source: Providence Preservation Society

Providence, United States 31 May 2019

Rhode Island’s tallest—and vacant—landmark, the former Industrial Trust Building in downtown Providence, otherwise known as the “Superman Building”, is on this year’s list of the United States’ most endangered historic places.

For more than 30 years the National Trust for Historic Preservation has produced a list of the 11 most endangered places in the country to call attention to what it considers “one-of-a-kind treasures.”

“The 91-year-old Art Deco Superman tower, earned its nickname for its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from Superman comics.”

The 91-year-old Art Deco Superman tower, which earned its nickname for its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from Superman comics, joins Nashville’s Music Row, Chicago’s Thompson Center, and the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, among others, as this year’s threatened places.

Officials from the National Trust and Providence Preservation Society and the Providence Foundation made the announcement in Burnside Park across from the tower. “We hope the announcement will be another tool toward eventual redevelopment,” said Brent Runyon, executive director for the Providence Preservation Society.

The 26-story office tower, owned by High Rock Westminster Street LLC, has been vacant since its last tenant, Bank of America, moved out in 2013. High Rock, with the help of the state commerce officials, has tried for years to find new tenants for the former Industrial Trust headquarters.

Building owners estimated in 2017 that renovating the entire tower could cost US$115–140 million. High Rock, which purchased the downtown building in 2008 for US$33.2 million, sued Bank of America for US$54 million, accusing it of breaching its lease agreement. The company claimed the bank improperly maintained the building’s limestone façade and its electrical, heating and air-conditioning systems before vacating the building.

The bank denied the allegations, noting in pretrial documents that it had spent millions on the building between 2003 and 2013, including maintenance and repair projects. Moreover, the bank alleged that High Rock was responsible for some of the building’s damage, noting that because the building wasn’t properly heated during the winter of 2013-14, water pipes burst, causing extensive damage throughout the building. The bank also alleged that High Rock made the decision to bring its civil lawsuit “in an effort to secure funds for the building’s redevelopment and conversion to residential apartment units.”

Lawyers settled the case in May 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

For more on this story go to the Providence Journal.

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