April 14, 2013

'Superman building' is closing down

The distinctive 26-story building in Providence, R.I., built in 1928, has an uncertain future.

By MICHELLE R. SMITH The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The tallest building in Rhode Island closed to the public Friday, ending its 85-year run as a bank when Bank of America shut down its branch on the first floor. It's not clear when the 26-story Art Deco-style skyscraper, known locally as the "Superman building" for its similarity to the Daily Planet headquarters in the old TV show, will open again.

click image to enlarge

This Art Deco building in downtown Providence, R.I., is the city’s most prominent skyline feature. It will be empty at the end of April, and some fear the effect on the rest of downtown.

The Associated Press

The 1928 building is expected to sit empty and, possibly, much darker, as its owner decides what to do with it. High Rock Development, based in Newton, Mass., has said that when Bank of America's lease is up at the end of April, there will be changes to the exterior lighting on the building, a distinctive feature of the Providence skyline.

On Friday, ahead of the bank's 2 p.m. closure, people filtered through the building's banking hall to get a last look at its vaulted ceilings and the Ionic marble colonnade screen that lines the space.

"It's sad. It's a beautiful building," said Beverly Bowen, a cashier and frequent visitor to the bank branch for her work.

She said she realized Friday might be the last time she ever sees the inside of the building, and that she'll miss it. She also understands why the bank decided to move out.

"I remember when it was a lot busier than it is now," she said.

Across the street, Roger Gross, owner of Franklin Rogers Ltd., a men's clothing store, said he was concerned about what it means for the rest of downtown.

"It's not good for the city whatsoever. It bodes ill for a city where the largest building is empty," he said.

High Rock has said it wants to remodel the building into apartments and needs state historic tax credits to do so. That would require the General Assembly to revive the historic tax credit program, which ended in 2008.

Spokesman Bill Fischer said last month that the blue light that shines like a beacon at the top of the building and can be seen in Massachusetts would be turned off. He said lighting that illuminates the building's facade would be minimal, if it is lit at all. This week, he reiterated that the lighting would change, but said High Rock officials are looking at different lighting schemes.

"Are there ways in which we can keep a minimal amount of lighting going that's appropriate to the Providence skyline? Those matters are being evaluated," Fischer said. "We certainly don't want to be perceived as shutting the lights out when this changeover occurs."


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)