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RI Leaders and Experts React To Hasbro Tower Proposal and Demolition of Superman Building

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The news of the proposal by Paolino Properties and Gilbane Development for a new Hasbro headquarters in Providence swept across Rhode Island’s political, business and preservation circles like wildfire.


On Monday afternoon, GoLocal broke the story that two of the mega-forces in real estate development and construction teamed up and presented Hasbro with a plan to consolidate the entertainment and toy company’s three major Rhode Island locations into one, new 35 story tower at the site of the Superman Building.

The proposal, one of the biggest projects ever put forth for Providence, would change the skyline -- and lead to the demolition of the tallest building downtown.

Depending on one’s point of view, the Superman building is a dysfunctional, vacant blight that dozens of companies have looked at, but cannot figure out a way to make it work, even with millions of dollars in incentives. 

Or, it is a historic icon of Providence that may test our creativity, but must be saved due to its architectural value.

A consolidated Hasbro is a gleaming new tower — and would be the focal point of Rhode Island economy’s resurrection, which would likely to be an indicator that the state is exploding in the right direction.


Related Slideshow: Leaders and Experts React To Hasbro Tower Proposal and Demolition of Superman Building

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Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello

This space is very important to the continued growth and development of the economy in our state and city.  I always appreciate economic development proposals, and should this one advance further, I look forward to reviewing and analyzing it closely.

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Will Morgan, Leading Architectural Critic

The proposed 36-story glass box for Hasbro on the site of the Industrial Trust Building is a terrible idea on so many levels.

As is all too typical in contemporary Providence, this idea is only about Property Development–only about dollars, square footage, trashing history for a quick profit. Where is the discussion of architecture, of inspired city planning, of encouraging innovative design, of enriching the city’s spirit?

Imagination is also lacking in the assumption that the so-called Superman Building cannot be saved. What a tired litany! Too many cities have lost major landmarks that defined them because they lacked the will and the imagination to take on the challenge of rehabilitating an outstanding work of architecture. We can no longer call ourselves the “Creative Capital” if we are unwilling to expend the creative capital to save that treasure.

If Providence really wants to attract people and companies, then it needs to ditch its tired let’s-build-it-and-aesthetics-and-good-planning-be-damned philosophy. A truly smart city would see that rehabilitating the Industrial Trust and combining it with first-rate design is not only possible but to be expected.

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Senate President Dominick Ruggerio

I welcome news of this potential major investment in downtown Providence, and look forward to learning more about the proposal.

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Bradley P. Dorman, Managing Partner, WhaleRock Point Partners, LLC

We would be 100% behind the Hasbro deal. It would reinvigorate the downtown community so I am all for it. Great for RI!!



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U.S. Senate Candidate Bob Flanders

I think this would be an exciting development for Providence and the state if this were to happen. The Superman building is irreversibly outdated and, given the impractical high cost of trying to modernize such a structure, it needs to be demolished, in my opinion. If this project were to proceed, then it would convert what is now a white elephant into a modern facility housing one of RI's iconic businesses. More importantly, it would catalyze further development and business activity in Providence's downtown area, reversing a long slide and lamentable hollowing out of our central commercial district.

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David Brussat, Architectural Critic

Paolino’s proposal makes perfect sense in the context of Providence’s recent development history. The policy of the current and recent mayors seems to be this: Tear down everything that represents the city’s venerable brand and replace it with anything that can be relied upon to weaken its brand.

Hey! Sounds like a plan! This plan has a pedigree that reaches back to the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

For those shaking their heads in wonder, yes, Providence has already traveled down that road. The Downtown Providence 1970 Plan, announced in 1960, proposed demolishing the city’s beauty and replacing it with ugliness. Pure urban removal. Fortunately, only Cathedral Square and Westminster Mall were built. The former, though the brainchild of modernist icon I.M. Pei, remains dead space. As for the latter, Paolino himself deserves a lot of credit, as mayor in the 1980s, for removing the failed pedestrian mall, which was just as ugly as Cathedral Square, and replacing it with a street that can sit alongside many of Europe’s finest for beauty and civility.

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House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, Candidate for Governor

I love the fact that we have preserved so many of the architectural treasures of our state’s history. It makes our cities unique, beautiful and livable. So it’s not easy to say, tear down the old Industrial Trust Building. Rhode Islanders have good memories of the “Superman Building’ in its glory days. Filled with workers, it was an economic engine for our state. Its beacon proclaimed its financial clout across the horizon. Sadly, it has been empty for 4 years now, and instead of delivering economic vitality, it is a drag on downtown Providence. My understanding is, that the interior, designed 90 years ago, is no longer conducive to the work environments that are needed by today’s companies. It would be extraordinarily expense to renovate the building to today’s standards.

Having Hasbro fill the void would be a strong stimulus for a beleaguered downtown district and the commerce it spurs in the area just from being filled again with employees and visitors would undoubtedly lead to additional jobs in the surrounding area. I think it’s great news that two real estate powerhouses, Gilbane Development and Paolino Properties, have been diligently working to find a path towards that goal. And that other developers are also interested. Whether they restore the existing building, which given the challenges seems unlikely, or demolish it and build a new building, it can only be a positive improvement for Providence. I am thankful that Hasbro’s commitment to Rhode Island is so strong. It really is commendable.


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Providence Preservation Society

Whether the Industrial Trust Building has monetary value *may* be up for debate, but it is undeniable that it is among the most valuable buildings in Downtown Providence for MANY other reasons, among them embodied energy, craftsmanship, high quality materials, architectural beauty and interest, etc. Let's get Hasbro to build in downtown Providence, but let's use some of the parking lots that we have so many of...and build parking into the building. That's what cities do when they improve. Not tear down icons. We call on Jorge Elorza and Gina Raimondo to help find a suitable place for Hasbro in our Downtown.

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Saul Kaplan, Founder and Chief Catalyst of Business Innovation Factory

I like the sound of Hasbro Tower. Don’t look now, but Rhode Island may be starting to believe in itself! A new Hasbro headquarters downtown is a game changer which will help transform Rhode Island’s skyline and economy. It’s wonderful to see local companies like Hasbro and CVS Health playing offense and positioned as the innovators reshaping their industries. 

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Aaron Renn, Urbanist at the Manhattan Institute

The Superman Building is clearly a challenging situation for Providence. But it's also a signature historic structure that can never be recreated if lost. Historic architecture is part of what gives Providence its unique character. Given the availability of other sites for any Hasbro HQ, it's not clear why demolition is a card the city needs to play. I would prefer to see the Superman building mothballed until redevelopment makes sense, though I recognize that there may be limits to what can be done to save it.

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Bob Burke, Owner of Pot Au Feu Restaurant

Let’s play a little Monopoly - Downtown Providence Edition.

As a lover of our iconic architecture, it would be great to see the new building built on the parking lot site where 110 Westminster was going to be built. The engineering work worth millions has been done and millions in demo cost tearing down Superman would be saved. 

Superman would then be viable as a micro residence site for workers attracted by the creative power of Hasbro - that’s a win-win-win.

Monopoly Downtown - it’s all about landing on the right spot.



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Ray Rickman, Founder of Stages of Freedom

That building is a symbol of Providence -- in spite of all its problems, it's enormously elegant, it's the skyline.  I'm slow to think it should come down.

Having said that, I saw the rendering (which remember are usually 50% better than how they'll look), it looks glamorous, and would create a whole new skyline. Sometimes you have to move forward. 

So at first blush I'm opposed, but if it's not going to cost the public -- and it's truly a private development -- and it could be, this isn't being done on spec -- I'm not opposed to considering it. 


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