June 05--PROV IDENCE, R.I. -- Both Republican candidates for governor called on the General Assembly Wednesday to reject a proposal to use state tax dollars to help fund the renovation of the so-called "Superman" building at 111 Westminster St.
The owner of the vacant office building, Massachusetts-based High Rock Development, has been lobbying city and state officials for a year to secure financing to convert the convert it into apartments. The Senate Finance Committee heard details Tuesday of a proposal that the state earmark a total of $39 million for the project.
"Using taxpayer money to fund renovations of the so called Superman Building would be kryptonite for Rhode Island," said Ken Block, who will face Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in the September Republican gubernatorial primary. "The taxpayers of our state can't afford to waste a single dollar given the projected $400 million dollar shortfall that the state's current leadership is failing to acknowledge.
"Given what occurred with 38 Studios it is unconscionable that anyone would even conceive throwing taxpayer money into this commercial project," said Block. "This is simply another example of political insiders trying to use back room deals to receive a taxpayer bailout of a risky investment. The career politicians just don't get it; the citizens of Rhode Island have had enough of this. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.
Fung noted the "tremendous local, state and federal subsidies" the developers are seeking before they can raise enough private investment to make the project viable.
"Rhode Island has a historic tax credit program that has worked well in the past," Fung said. "But this proposal would spend far too much of our taxpayer money on a single project that would not create sufficient sustainable jobs for our economy. This proposal relies far too heavily on public dollars. Instead, the project should rely more on private investment. It is simply too big of a risk for Rhode Island taxpayers."
GALLERY: Inside 111 Westminster St., Providence's 'Superman' building
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