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Superman building in Rhode Island to go dark at night

By Michelle R. Smith

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 28 2013 2:01 p.m. MDT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island's tallest building will no longer light up the Providence skyline after it becomes vacant next month, a spokesman for the owner told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The 1928 art deco-style building, known locally as the Superman building because of its similarity to the Daily Planet building in the old TV show, is the most distinctive feature on the Providence skyline and is usually topped at night by a blue light that can be seen as far away as Massachusetts. Its facade is also illuminated.

Bill Fischer, spokesman for High Rock Development, said the blue light will be turned off after the end of April, when Bank of America's lease expires, and the lights that illuminate the facade will be minimal, if they are lit at all.

"That is not something we desire, but it's just a reality," he said. "This is a costly proposition to maintain lighting in the building with no one paying rent."

Fischer said Bank of America, the single tenant in the building, currently pays for the lights. After the bank vacates the building next month, High Rock will have to pay $2 million per year at minimum for expenses that include taxes, insurance, minimal heat and other costs, Fischer said.

The Massachusetts-based real estate investment and development firm has said the best use of the building would be to convert its 350,000 square feet of office space into around 290 apartments, but Fischer has said the company needs state historic tax credits to do so. That would require the General Assembly to revive the historic tax credit program, which ended in 2008.

Fischer called the decision "a sad day for Rhode Island," but said lighting the building purely for symbolic reasons was not the answer.

"I don't think it's a good image for the city. I don't think it's a good image for the state. There are realities are here," Fischer said. "Their lease expires at the end of April, and we're going to have to react to that."

When asked if it was a negotiating tactic as the company tries to secure tax credits, Fischer said it was not. He said it was a reality for the company, although one it hopes will not be long-term.

"It is our desire to have this building be a functional part of downtown Providence, contributing to downtown Providence," he said.

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