The "Superman Building" at 111 Westminster Street is now empty, but could soon become apartments. WPRO file photo.
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
High Rock Development, the owner of the now-vacant “Superman Building” in downtown Providence, released economic impact and feasibility studies Tuesday for the proposed redevelopment of the historic 111 Westminster Street location.
The plan is to convert the 441,000 square foot, 26-story building into 278 apartments, as well as maintain the lower floors (roughly 35,000 square feet) for shops and restaurants.
Apartments would be rentals, not condominiums, and would range in size from micro-lofts (398 square feet, or the size of a typical hotel room) to three bedroom/two bath (1,386 square feet). Proposed monthly rents range from $1,125 for the micro-lofts to $2,750 for the three-bedrooms.
In addition to creating more living space, High Rock Development also plans to create more jobs. The study says the development would create $44 million in employee compensation related to project construction and 230 permanent full-time equivalent jobs supported post-construction, including property management and retail use.
So where will the money come from to do all of this? High Rock would invest $70 million (including $55 million in new cash equity and debt). They’re also banking on a 17-year tax stabilization agreement with the City of Providence for $10 to $15 million, as well as federal historic tax credits of $21 million. The plan also includes a bullet point for "State Assistance" totaling $39 million. The state’s support has not been approved or secured.
Following the release of the study, House Speaker Gordon Fox release this statement:
“The ‘Superman’ building is a beautiful and significant landmark in downtown Providence, but I am deeply concerned about the amount of taxpayer dollars that are being sought for this project. As was announced last week as part of our economic development package, the House is introducing historic tax credit legislation with a $5 million cap on credits for any single project. If this tax credit program is reinstated this year, the developers could apply for those capped credits. Beyond that, I believe the state is not in any position to provide the level of financial assistance that the developer is seeking.”
The study says development would generate $4.6 million in tax revenues during construction. The additional taxes on households and businesses in the building, once completed, would generate an estimated $680,000 in revenue.
The total, one-time economic impact of the conversion of the Superman Building has been ball-parked at $159 million.
“Decisions made this year about the future of 111 Westminster will have an impact on the future of Providence for the next 25 years,” said Bill Fischer, spokesperson for High Rock Development in a statement. “It is incredibly important that we get this right and adopt a plan that ensures the highest and best use of the building. These reports confirm that converting the Superman building into rental apartments is in fact the highest and best use of the building. This project will create hundreds of jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenue, and help meet the current and anticipated housing demand in downtown Providence. We hope it will be judged on its merits.”
The economic impact study says that if the Superman Building remains office space, “it will significantly increase downtown vacancy, creating a drag on an already soft real estate market.”
Read the full reports here:
The City of Providence also released an independently performed study on the Superman Building. This study also suggests state aid in the form of $60 million in historic tax credits. You can read that full report here.
This story has been updated to include Fox's remarks and the City of Providence's report.