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Providence’s Superman Building: A High Cost Gamble?

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Last month, Superman building owner, High Rock Development LLC, requested $39 million dollars in state tax credits and other financing to convert Providence’s Superman Building into 278 new apartment spaces.

According to several sources, the proposed budget was immediately shot down by House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, who says he’s in “no position” to provide that level of financial assistance. Although the reinstatement of tax credits is as part of the House’s new economic development package, each project will only have a maximum $5 million cap in state funding.

Supporters of High Rock’s financial report believe that this new venture will generate 230 permanent jobs, $4.6 million in tax revenue, $26 million of money each year into the economy, and more downtown residents.

High Rock continues to push for obtaining state-funded financial backing, regardless of continued skepticism. ‘‘The obligation is on us to prove the merits of our proposal, and we intend to continue down that road,’’ said Bill Fischer, spokesperson for High Rock Development. “These reports confirm that converting the Superman building into rental apartments is in fact the highest and best use of the building.”

Sure, it’s better than marketing the property for more office spaces. But does it have to come from public financing, our state’s money?

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also expressed hesitation towards this proposal as a wise public investment towards our state’s economy. Local developers as well are concerned about the merits of this high cost investment: “Many developers have done well without taking any subsidies. If it is a good project, it should be able to be done without them, “ says George Potsidis, president of Geo Properties and restoration company, Sega Construction.

Sounds pretty sensible if you think about. Why should we pay for this? Yet, are the consequences of inaction even greater?

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