Superman Developer Asking for Tens of Millions in Subsidies Again

Thursday, May 05, 2016


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David Sweetser

Boston developer David Sweetser is back. Once again, he is asking for tens of millions in state and federal subsidies to rehab the vacant Superman building.

At a press conference today, the number of speakers on the agenda was longer than previous press events, but the message was the same -- this project needs tens of millions of public money to be viable. Neither Sweetser nor any of the other speakers identified the exact amount of the ask or what the building will used for, but the call for action was unified.

"We don't have the number yet that we're asking for, it will depend on how we repurpose the building and what we do with it that will have an effect," said Sweetser. "We are working with the state, and that will have a significant impact on how we proceed financially."

According to reports released in May of 2013, that GoLocal reported,"High Rock Development is looking for $70 to $75 million in local, state, and federal funding to turn the "Superman building," which it currently owns, into 278 upscale apartments. The studies conducted indicate that the project would cost between $140 to $145 million, which would include a $70 million investment from High Rock, who is then is looking for $39 million in support from the state, $21 million in federal historic tax credits, and a 17 year, $10-15 million tax stabilization agreement with the City of Providence." But, no figures were provided by the developer today. Sources said that the ask will likely to be less, but in the tens of millions.

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Raimondo Administration Missing

"We're attempting to be incredibly flexible in our discussions with Commerce regarding putting an element of commercial and office space instead of a pure 100% residential development," said High Rock spokesperson Bill Fischer. "There are different price points, that's an unknown variable.  Another is the mechanism of how it will go forward. It's an ongoing conversation."

When asked why if High Rock is working with Commerce was Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor not present, Fischer said that was up to them to answer. 

Literally, as the press conference was taking place, opponents were emerging who opposed the use of public money to resuscitate the privately owned building. As Buff Chace called for government to help bailout the building, Mile Stenhouse of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity as tweeting,"(Chace) the master at making a profit off taxpayers' backs ..." which refers to the numerous tax stabilizations that Chace has received over the years from the City of Providence.

Opponents have also launched a web page tied to social media. The new group is comprised of many of the activists who successfully blocked the ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox from receiving a requested $140 million in taxpayer subsidies to move the stadium from Pawtucket to Providence. "Well Folks ... We're Baaaaaack .... And so are the money grubbing corporate cronyists who insist on trying to support their lifestyle on the backs of taxpayers. Nope. No. Not Gonna Happen," wrote activist Pat Ford.

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Buff Chace, Providence Developers

Advocates for the Superman Funding Called for Action

Those calling for funding to rehab the building included Laurie White of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Neil Steinberg who heads the RI Foundation and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. White and Steinberg both head non-profits.

"My concern is largely not the conversation about what we do but what if we do nothing," said City Council President Luis Aponte. "This is a large structure that pays a lot of taxes. It would be a colossal failure if we allow this building to be purchased by a tax exempt, put students in and take it off the tax rolls. it moves us in the wrong direction."

According to an appraisal of the building done by Scotti and Associates -- the three-year vacant building that used to be the global headquarters to Fleet Bank and then after merger a regional hub for Bank of America -- has no value.


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