The Superman building is certainly one of – if not the – most iconic architectural structures in the Ocean State. We don’t want to lose that. But what’s happening with the inside the building is a pretty iconic example of the current economy. We do want to lose that.
111 Westminster began its existence as the George Bailey-esque Industrial Trust Tower in 1927 and, over the years, became the Fleet Tower, then briefly BankBoston, until eventually being swallowed up by Bank of America – the real life incarnation of Mr. Potter’s fictional evil empire.
It’s not hyperbole to note that the Christmas classic about community concern versus rampant capitalism “It’s a Wonderful Life” predicted that local bank profiteering would devolve into Bank of America-esque entities that would eventually turn on our economy. And that’s exactly what is happening. No Rhode Islander should be doing their banking with this company as they do this to our economy and our Capital City’s centerpiece (Pawtucket Credit Union and Bank Newport are local alternatives).
Going forward, I think it’s important the Superman building remain an iconic symbol of Rhode Island – and our economy. I’m not sold on the idea of more high-end housing, but I’m not viscerally opposed to the idea either. In general, I think it’s a wise use of resources for the government to assist the private sector, and see few similarities to giving Curt Schilling $75 millions to make a video game.
It’s the over-gentrification of Downcity that concerns me. The Nation recently published a special issue called “The Gilded Age: Bloomberg’s New York” that I suspect contains many cautionary tales for Providence, and other cities.
Similarly, I have concerns about turning Kennedy Plaza into a a parking lot for food trucks and other entrapments for upscale urban yuppies.
“The belching diesel fumes and comings and goings of bus passengers too often give this part of our capital city the feel of a third world country,” wrote Scott MacKay in his essay on the two downtown projects.
I strongly disagree. In fact, I think Kennedy Plaza is the one place in the state where one can find a cross-section of Rhode Islanders – suburban executives are just as likely to commute to the Capitalist Grill as urban ditch diggers are to take the bus to work. It isn’t bad when these diverse users of downtown Providence have to look each other in the face now and again.
I really like the idea of doing a big master planning effort that extends from the State House to the waterfront. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to make isolated decisions about the common future for the Superman building, Kennedy Plaza, the Dynamo House, the Jewelry District, Shooters and Conley’s Wharf. In fact, i think it’s a good urban planners dream come true. Rhode Island a once in a millennium opportunity to redevelop this entire swath of our capital city into a shining centerpiece for the Ocean State.