- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The owner of Rhode Island’s tallest building renewed an effort Monday that failed last year to get government aid to redevelop the downtown Providence landmark.

The 26-story skyscraper 111 Westminster, also known as the Superman building, became vacant in April 2013 when Bank of America moved out. The building had been used as a bank since it opened in 1928.

Its Newton, Mass.-based owner, High Rock Development, proposed last year to turn the building into apartments. High Rock said it would invest $55 million in cash equity and debt but said it would need $70 million to $75 million more in public support. That included $39 million in unspecified state support, a 17-year city tax stabilization agreement worth $10 million to $15 million and federal historic tax credits worth $21 million.

The plan went nowhere.

High Rock restarted the effort Monday, calling it a “public private partnership” and adding a few sweeteners, including a guarantee that it will complete the renovation before receiving any state investment.

It did not say how much public aid it would seek. Spokeswoman Dyana Koelsch those numbers aren’t yet available.

“For us to start guessing at numbers would not be responsible,” she said.

Buff Chace of the project’s development team said he expects High Rock’s investment would still be close to the $55 million it announced last year.

“That’s probably a pretty static number. It’s really how the other parties, the other public parties choose to participate,” he said.

He says the project will spur the city’s economy, and that the question that leaders need to ask now is whether the project is worth doing.

“Do they want to have a vacant building that’s deteriorating in the middle of the city?” he said. “Or do they want to have a construction project that’s putting people to work?”

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