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Lights out on Rhode Island’s tallest building

July 10, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The exterior of Rhode Island’s tallest building will no longer be illuminated at night beginning this week, a decision made to save money as it sits vacant with questions unanswered about how it will be used in the future, a spokesman for the building’s owner said Wednesday.

The exterior of the 26-story Art Deco-style skyscraper, known to some as the Superman building for its similarity to the Daily Planet headquarters in the old TV show, was not illuminated by floodlights for the first time Tuesday night, said Bill Fischer, a spokesman for the building owner, Massachusetts-based High Rock Development. He said they would be turned off “for the foreseeable future.”

The decision means the most distinctive feature on the downtown Providence skyline will now be dark at night, apart from the blue beacon that sits on top of the building. That will continue to be turned on every night as a “gesture of goodwill,” Fischer said. He added that without a tenant or viable plan to use the building, it costs too much to keep the other lights on. He said it costs $26,000 to $30,000 annually to light the exterior.

“We have to protect the integrity of the building, and we have to protect the investment. It’s just not prudent to light it,” Fischer said Wednesday.

The 380,000-square-foot building lost its only tenant, Bank of America Corp., in April. High Rock pushed for $39 million in state tax credits to help it convert the building into apartments, which it called the “highest and best use” of the building. That idea was rejected by lawmakers.

The company has also proposed moving some state offices there, but Fischer says that would still require extensive renovations to the building, which has been used as a bank since it first opened in 1928.

Fischer said High Rock is not interested in selling.

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