Greater City Providence

Bank of America to leave the “Superman” Building, now what?

Providence, RI

ProJo reports this morning that Bank of America has officially decided that it will leave the Superman Building to consolidate it’s Providence office space.

While the move has been long rumored with former Mayor Paolino calling on Sen. Jack Reed to intervene (Reed declined saying it was an issue for the City and State to address), the official word comes out today.

The Journal’s report says the bank would leave the building in April of 2013.

So, with Rhode Island’s tallest and arguably most iconic building on the verge of emptying out and going dark, what do we think should be done with it?


  • Built in 1927
  • 26 Floors
  • 428 feet tall
  • 350,000 sq. feet of office space
  • Owned by High Rock Westminster, LLC
  • Purchased in Jan. 2008 for $33 million

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • So who is building new space in the I195 space with all these empty buildings that are cheaper to renovate about a tenth of a mile away.

  • How about space for departments at the Providence colleges and universities that benefit from collaboration with other institutions (procurement) or small academic programs in order to avoid expensive redundancy (foreign languages)? The business community might also appreciate having career services in one central location.

  • This kind of tower isn’t what the office market really wants anymore. Many Lower Manhattan office buildings like this one have been converted to residential.

    The building could be transformed into a mixed building, with the grand banking space on the ground floor as retail, (a good example of a lobby/retail reuse is Eataly, a food emporium, at 23rd and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan). Above the retail within the base, which has the largest floor plates, could remain as renovated offices, above that hotel, and in the top 10 or so floors with the smallest floor plates residential. The building has the elevators to separate the uses.

    Then again maybe Superman Corp. will come to the rescue and relocate to Providence and fill the building with office workers.

  • Perhaps Providence can re-pioneer airship travel…the building was originally designed to have a airship docking mast on the top. Honestly it will be a big challenge to get business into a building this old since it has such antiquated heating and cooling systems, it must cost a ton to keep it comfortable. God I hope tearing it down isn’t on anyone’s mind, it the most iconic building in Providence.

  • 2,365,493 mini-mini-mini lofts. these are all the rage.. no better yet, FREE housing for ALL the new employees that 38 Studios must have hired by now.. they pinkie promised, right?

  • @dietsch, I’m totally speculating, but I would imagine their retail and corporate leasing are run out of different divisions, so they may have a separate lease on the lobby and want to stay there.

    However, the Superman Building lines up nicely with the Arcade, there could be a public promenade with shops and such from Kennedy Plaza, through the Superman to Westminster through the Arcade to Weybosset. Could be an interesting urban space, and would tie in nice to redesigning Kennedy Plaza.

  • Perhaps the city could convince Fidelity Investments to move some of their business groups in the building.

  • WPRI is reporting that former mayor Paolino and others are calling for a BofA boycott in response to the bank leaving the building.

    People, I’m sure could come up with many reasons to boycott BofA, but they are not actually leaving Providence, they are consolidating into a smaller space (reportedly 50k square feet) Downtown (where Downtown is unknown at the moment). I’m not sure it is healthy for us to foam at the mouth over a company, that is staying in town, who makes a strategic (and sound) business decision to downsize.

  • Thanks, Jef. I just saw the same PBN report. Shame ProJo didn’t think to include that detail.

  • The best solution would be to combine this with the Arcade somehow, create a larger, intentional, functional urban space.

    There have to be nice ways to blast open the bottom floors into the streets (can we PLEASE close Westminster from Exchange to Dorrance to traffic?) and activate the bottom floor. If the SROs in the Arcade are really that popular, then the lower office space could make for a great home for new start-ups (rather than pushing them into the Jewelry District).

    No more hotel space, please. Someone needs to buy the Biltmore instead.

  • I love Jef’s suggestion and a few others that have mentioned it:

    Tie it in with the Arcade. The two buildings line up perfectly. Create a corridor from Fulton Street/Kennedy Plaza through the Grand Hall at the BoA building, across Westminster, through the Arcade, terminating on Weybosett Street.

    Tie in the suggestion of closing off Westminster from Turks Head to Dorrance (I’m thinking of recreating the space around Downtown Crossing in Boston, street vendors, etc)

    Rehab Westminster from Turks Head to Dorrance because, let’s face it, that stretch is pretty damn shabby;
    -broken bricks on sidewalks
    -little to no street foliage
    -broken lights
    Rehab it to match the existing and lively stretch of Westminster from Dorrance to Union…

    Like Peter, I agree with what he suggested: retail on the ground floor, offices in the base, residential/hotel above.

    The Customs House Tower in Boston was converted to time-share/hotel space – it’s quite successful. As hotel space is not necessarily needed at this time, the demand will be present as Brown and other companies/organizations continue to grow – and the space eventually filled from the removal of the highway.

    This could be an exciting change to the Financial District that is otherwise darkened past normal business hours.

  • Jbouchard, I like the way you think! Not sure how successful it would be to make part of Westminster a pedestrian mall (again) since the urban fabric of Providence is already out of whack. Maybe the street should stay put, get renovated & decorated, and be closed to traffic during the day… giving it the potential to become a street market/pedestrian mall without actually removing the street while still making the same urban/retail tie between the Arcade and BoA Building. This should all be done relatively around the same time that Kennedy Plaza gets redesigned to improve the connection in the Financial District between transit and retail. I’d really like to see the Financial District and the rest of DownCity to become alive during the night time!

  • Liam;
    All those suggestions were made prior to mine…just building off of what was already said.

    There’s definite prospects for the move of BoA – it would be amazing to see that area of downtown come to life after hours.

    I like your suggestion regarding the closing of Westminster: close during the day, open during the night.
    With regard to streetscapes, foliage is desperately needed… and not the puny little trees planted along Washington! The City should take note to what Brown did at the medical school – as reported on this site in the past, the street trees are mature and fantastic.

    When is KP scheduled for redesign? Has anything been set in stone yet? I have not followed that project at all (shame on me), considering the fact I work right down the street from it…

  • It’s all basically a work in progress. Too much is being redesigned by too many different people at all different times. It’s an urban planning nightmare. Providence has excellent potential, but in order for it to reach its maximum potential, I feel as though all of these organizations and coalitions need to join together and form better lines of communication with each other, the local government, and the community to accomplish everything in a good amount of time so that everyone is pleased. Kennedy Plaza (from when I last checked) is still in the designing phases of the project. RIPTA was trying to figure out how to disperse the bus berths the last time I went to a meeting regarding KP, but that was in early October. There needs to be a master plan drawn up to encompass the Jewelry District (streetgrid/waterfront park, etc), KP, Emmett Square, Cathedral Square, and so on…. basically one large report that would touch upon all of the little problems in Providence.

    But back to Westminster:
    I agree with you on the streetscape and foliage. I also think that the string lights that run above the street should be extended all the way down to the Arcade so that the intersection of Dorrance doesn’t symbolically cut them off anymore. If Providence wants to get more people out of the mall and into DownCity, they first need to start with the Financial District and work out to the Jewelry District. In my opinion, Kennedy Plaza/BoA/Arcade/Westminster should be fixed first -I will most likely draw up some of my own plans to share.

  • The biggest concern should be what occupies the current banking hall, it is a magnificent interior space among the best in a city with some amazing buildings.

    BofA is only leaving the Superman Building THEY ARE NOT LEAVING DOWNTOWN PROVIDENCE!!!! I dont know how many times I’ve heard people write off Downcity today because of this decision.

  • they might not be leaving downtown, but where are they going, and what building will be torn down in order for them to have a drive through for the retail bank and some parking?

  • The PBN article mentioned that they have office space elsewhere Downtown already, next door and in the Citizens Building I think. My assumption is they will try to find space in those buildings.

  • From PBN: “In addition to moving workers to offices in Providence where the company already leases space, Bank of America is also looking for an additional 50,000-square feet of space for remaining workers leaving the Superman building.”

    So where is there a vacant space with 50,000 sqft?

    Maybe there’s hope for the Fogarty Building?

  • The rumor I’m hearing is that most of the employees currently housed in the superman building will leave downcity and relocate to a more suburban location, off Route 10, but technically still in PVD.

    Perhaps they were worried about the ongoing PARKING CRISIS!!1!!

  • Right, no thought to workers who might take the bus to work now and be sh*t out of luck with a move to some office park on the edge of nowhere.

  • The Niantic Avenue office/industrial area that’s wedged between Route 10 and Huntington Avenue has reasonable transit accessibility by RIPTA’ s 31 – Cranston Street bus route. Bank of America’s building on Dupont Drive is a little less than a half-mile or a 10 minute walk from Cranston Street. By the way, their building has ample parking according to aerial photos.

    The problem will be for people who do not live along the 31 or 56 routes with timing transfers at KP. This exemplifies the difficulty with wheel and spoke transit routes, when your job isn’t located in the center. How long would it take for someone coming from Olneyville or Silverlake, which is roughly a mile or so from Niantic Avenue, to transfer at KP to get Niantic Avenue then walk to Dupont Drive? A direct walk would be less than pleasant. Also in winter who shovels sidewalks in such a marginal section of the city. It’s easier to drive.

  • When I moved to Providence I worked at a Temp job in the Niantic Office Park and I begged the agency to take me off the assignment. The company sucked, but the Office Park made me want to die. I had to walk to Westminster Street to catch the bus, then walk from Cranston Street into the park, which is the world’s most soul sucking walk. Plus, on the outbound I had to either cross Cranston Street in the traffic madness around the Route 10 ramps or get off a block further away so I wouldn’t die crossing the street. Then, if I wanted lunch, I had to walk out of the Office Park and find someplace to eat on Cranston Street, then walk back into the park. Nothing is built for people there, I almost got run over multiple times a day, then the drivers who almost ran me over would yell at me because I “didn’t belong there” and how dare I put a wrench into their driving and force them to pay attention to where they were going.

  • One day, my lunch break was sitting on a section of sidewalk free of dirt and broken glass on Huntington and eating a bag of chips and a Coke I bought at a bodega on Cranston Street, that was one of the better days.

  • Despite the loss of B of A, this could be a great opportunity for the city, but the challenge is finding investors willing to put money into Providence again. It would be great if someone from the city contacted Donald Trump- he could do wonders for that space. A pipe dream perhaps, but he did renovations to similar buildings in NYC. However, the economic climate being the way it is in RI , Providence would not be a place he would want to invest.

    Ideally, as many have said here, it would make for a grand mixed use building. It would be great to rename it ” One Industrial Place”. Also, the top floor should be converted into a public observation deck (which Providence does not have). To let this building crumble or be demolished would be a tragedy. It is a beautiful, historic skyscraper, and with a little vision, boldness (and money) it can become great again.

    I know, not realistic- sadly Providence is quickly becoming the little Detriot of the East coast.

  • Hospital Trust….I thought RISD owns the building and uses the ground floor as their library…??

    Where else is there space for a BoA branch in the other two buildings? Seems like Citizens would be conflicting with um, Citizens Bank and space leased to Cafe Nuovo. Is there tenant-ready space next door at 50 Kennedy Plaza?

    I don’t venture over there too often to notice.

  • The RISD Building is the Old Hospital Trust Building, now 15West, or The Roger Mandle Building for Living and Learning (yes, that is what they named it). The Hospital Trust Tower is the the white highrise.

    This move doesn’t have anything to do with the branch, that could go anywhere, this is for office workers. Although there are a couple vacant spaces on the Kennedy Plaza side of 100 Westminster that could be a bank branch, it was hoped a restaurant would go in one of those spaces though, as there is room for outdoor dining which could help activate that side of the plaza.

  • Thanks Jef for the clarification.
    There’s also a few vacant storefronts on Westminster between Dorrance and Eddy…across from TD Bank….and another fairly sizeable space at 333 Westminster (just before the parking lot gap at Snow Street). Heck, even one of the new storefronts going in at the Biltmore Garage may even be large enough.
    Pay no attention to me, I’m just throwing things out there.

  • I wish they would buy Kinsley. Much smaller, flexible for retail on first floor. Sea of parking already surrounds it. Easy access to KP and theoretical streetcar…

  • I hear the Daily Planet has plans to purchase the Providence Journal and will occuply the old B of A building or part of it.

    This is confirmed by Clark Lane, editor.

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