The Superman building has been vacant since the beginning of April but the owners are hoping to change that with help from the state and federal government.
The company, High Rock Development say they are seeking to renovate the building into 278 apartments ranging in size from micro-studios to three bedroom units with prices starting at $1,125 and reaching $2,750. In order to do this project the developers say they will need to invest $55 million of their own money, reach a 17-year-tax stabilization agreement with Providence of the !0 to $15 million, access $21 million in federal historic tax credits and receive $39 million in state support.
"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. "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."
High Rock Developers released an economic impact study on the apartment proposal. They released following the list of benefits to renovating the apartments:
Tax revenues and property value
$4.6 million in tax revenues to the state during construction
The addition of 450 new residents to downtown Providence would produce $680,000 in annual revenues to the State of Rhode Island from sales and income taxes on households and businesses
Increased spending and economic impacts
Total one-time economic impact of the conversion of 111 Westminster for the State of Rhode Island is estimated to reach $159 million
$26 million in annual economic spending statewide, including direct resident retail spending, on-site operational spending and millions in ripple-effect economic activity
Meeting the housing need
Downtown population accounted for 86 percent of the city's population growth since 2000 (1,942 people).
Adding 278 units will increase downtown Providence's housing supply by 14 percent
The population of downtown Providence has increased 40 percent since 2000, while the rest of the city has grown by 1 percent since that time.
Providence currently provides housing (and has the potential to provide more) to adult professionals, aging baby boomers, Boston commuters, empty nesters, and students, who often prefer convenient, compact and walkable city living.
Downsides to not developing 111 Westminster include:
Vacancy in the Class B/C office market in downtown Providence is currently at 19 percent. If the Superman remains vacant, Class B/C space in Providence would surge to 25 percent.
A very large vacant B/C office building would drag down an already soft market, resulting in lower property tax values for downtown Providence for everyone.
If the building were not converted to residential use, it could take over 25 years for the city to absorb this amount of space.
Meanwhile some residents questioned the affordability of such apartments. Mayor Angel Taveras said the city needs to be cautious when considering tax incentives and said that he would want to look at all the city's options.