The #SaveSupermanRI campaign officially launched earlier today at a press conference in the former grand banking hall at 111 Westminster Street. Acting as a consultant for the owners, developer Buff Chace clearly outlined his goal: to restore community pride through the restoration of the vacant iconic structure, known locally as the Superman building.
David Sweetser, High Rock Development, described the building as a wonderful asset, despite the economy’s slow recovery since his purchase in 2008 and the loss of Bank of America as a tenant in 2013. He remains bullish on Providence and has recently invested $5 million to maintain the building’s profile and ultimately, reposition it. Similar to grand structures around the country that were constructed for single tenants, he believes the Superman building should be converted to residential units, considered the highest and best use. He will remain flexible though, and will consider mixed use alternatives as long as residential development is a major component. As Buff reiterated, this project gives Providence an opportunity to retain young people who gravitate toward city environments.
So, why does this project matter, and how can we get it done?
A series of community supporters including Mayor Jorge Elorza, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White, and Providence Preservation Society Executive Director Brent Runyon noted the building’s symbolic importance to the people of Rhode Island and the need to treat it with dignity. Neil Steinberg, Rhode Island Foundation president and CEO, said that the building is key to Providence’s revitalization, and the revitalization of Providence is key to the revitalization of the state as a whole. He referenced major city restoration projects—from PPAC to the Biltmore and the South Street Landing power station—that required public support, and urged everyone to move forward in a fair, transparent, realistic way. Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio added that it took political will to move rivers and resurrect South Street Landing, and it will take political will to resurrect Superman.
To wrap up the program, David Sweetser remarked that he doesn’t want us to look back in 5 years and say that we could have done something when we had the chance. Want to get involved in the effort? Learn more about other public/private partnerships in Rhode Island, the potential economic impact of this project, news and more on the website, savesupermanri.com. Follow @savesupermanri on Twitter and Instagram, and like the Facebook page.