EXCLUSIVE: Drone Footage Shows Superman Building’s Exterior Decay — Is It Safe?

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

 

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Photo from drone PHOTO: Rich Epstein

An investigation by GoLocalProv that included drone footage shot of the exterior condition of the vacant Superman building raises questions about the state of Rhode Island’s tallest building. The footage shows hundreds of cracks, crevices, and chipping of the limestone exterior of the building. The decay appears to have dramatically increased over the past two-plus years.

WATCH VIDEO ABOVE IN FULL SCREEN

A spokesman for the owner of the building -- High Rock Development of Newtown, MA -- tells GoLocal that the building is well-maintained.

“111 Westminster Street was constructed like a fortress in 1920’s. It has survived significant weather-related events over the decades with no impact to the structural integrity of the building. The owners maintain a robust maintenance and inspection schedule of the building’s exterior to ensure water damage does not occur. Licensed professionals literally rappel off the top of the building to identify any impacted areas of the exterior that need to be removed or repaired,” said Bill Fischer spokesman.

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Inspection of the Superman in 2016 PHOTO: GoLocal

The company refused to answer numerous questions about the condition of the facade and what efforts are being taken to maintain and improve the condition of the exterior of the building.

In September 2016, GoLocal captured in photography representatives of an insurance company who repelled down the building to conduct an inspection.  As GoLocal reported, a team from the company Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. had been conducting a facade investigation of the building, which has been empty at that time for three years.

Photos from that 2016 inspection compared to GoLocal’s drone footage and photography taken in this past week show a significant increase in the decay of the facade.

As far back as 2014, an appraisal of the building by Scott & Associates of Providence cited that “the exterior of the subject [111 Westminster] has not been well maintained and requires significant pointing and masonry repairs.”

Now, five years later, the limestone is showing even more significant decay. 

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Overview of the Superman via drone PHOTO: Epstein

The history of the building states, “The New York firm of Starret Brothers was hired to oversee the construction of 111 Westminster. Their past experience with skyscraper construction made them a suitable candidate for this project. The structure for 111 Westminster is of steel frame enclosed by masonry. Nearly 3,300 concrete-filled steel piles were driven into the ground to stabilize the structure. The exterior is faced in Indiana limestone, while the base is faced in Deer Island granite."

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WANE report on falling limestone

Limestone Failure

In 2015, a 600-pound piece of limestone fell to the ground at a courthouse in Indiana. WANE-TV reported, “Huntington County commissioners are investigating how a huge chunk of limestone fell off the west end of the courthouse on Jefferson Street early Sunday morning.”

Providence Preservation Society deemed that the Superman building is one of the ten most endangered building in the city. The group wrote, "Arguably the most iconic building in Rhode Island and rising 26 stories above Kennedy Plaza, the Industrial Trust Company Building was planned and built as the tallest building in New England and held that distinction for more than 20 years. The Art Deco skyscraper topped with a lantern features stylized classical motifs, friezes representing Rhode Island history, and pyramidal massing inspired by Manhattan setbacks of the time."

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Samples of decay in the facade

But while many seek to save Superman for reuse, the 2014 Scotti appraisal also wrote, “Renovation cost estimates for complete building rehab and re-use have ranged from $60,000,000-$100,000,000. Our estimates reflect a very conservative approach and contemplate the end product to be competitive in the Class B market.” Construction costs have increased dramatically since the appraisal was published in 2014.

The Future

For nearly six years, Commerce RI has worked to market the property to a range of potential developers and tenants. Those targeted included PayPal, Citizens Bank, American Tourister, Hasbro, Amazon (for HQ2), and numerous other companies.

"Commerce continues to dialogue and collaborate with key stakeholders regarding potential plans for the building's reuse and redevelopment. Conversations remain active," said Commerce spokesman Matt Sheaff in an email to GoLocal on Tuesday.

"The building is heated throughout the winter to protect the structure from frozen pipes and water damage. 111 also has a security presence 365 days a year - 24 hours a day.  Going forward the inspections will continue to ensure the building stands ready for redevelopment opportunities," added Fischer.

Others -- developers like Paolino Properties and Gilbane -- have made proposals to demolish the Superman Building in order to construct a new home for Hasbro. GoLocal first reported the proposal that emerged in December 2017.

Paolino refused to provide comment for this story and would not answer questions the decay of the Superman building has caused any damage to his adjacent building located at 100 Westminster Street.

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Related Slideshow: Photos Captured from Drone Footage of the Condition of the Superman Building - Feb, 2019

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Photos from Drone Footage -- Beacon

Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI

February, 2019

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Photos from Drone Footage - Beacon in the Tower 

Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI

February, 2019

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Photos from Drone Footage -- Decay of the Limestone Visible

Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI

February, 2019

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Photos from Drone Footage -- Landing Level Roof

Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI

February, 2019

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Photos from Drone Footage -- Roofs

Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI

February, 2019

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Photos from Drone Footage -- Condition of Facade Near Top

Superman Building at 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI

February, 2019

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Photos of Inspection of the Superman Building by  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

September, 2016

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Photos of Inspection of the Superman Building by  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

September, 2016

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Photos of Inspection of the Superman Building by  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

September, 2016

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Photos of Inspection of the Superman Building by  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

September, 2016

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Photos of Inspection of the Superman Building by  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

September, 2016

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Photos from Interior Tour of the Superman Building

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

August, 2016

Photo: GoLocal's Richard McCaffrey

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Photos from Interior Tour of the Superman Building

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

August, 2016

Photo: GoLocal's Richard McCaffrey

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Photos from Interior Tour of the Superman Building

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

August, 2016

Photo: GoLocal's Richard McCaffrey

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Photos from Interior Tour of the Superman Building

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

August, 2016

Photo: GoLocal's Richard McCaffrey

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Photos from Interior Tour of the Superman Building

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

August, 2016

Photo: GoLocal's Richard McCaffrey

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Photos from Interior Tour of the Superman Building

111 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

August, 2016

Photo: GoLocal's Richard McCaffrey

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Historic Photo of the Construction of 111 Westminster

Providence, RI

Date: Late 1920s

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View of Downtown Providence Featuring Superman Building

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Artist Rendering of a Design for a New Hasbro HQ in Downtown Providence Replacing the Superman Building

 
 

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