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‘Superman Building’ Damage Spurs Suit

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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Crumbling façades and other issues marring the so-called “Superman Building” in Providence, RI, have led to a $23.7 million dispute between the building owner and a former tenant.

Newton, MA-based High Rock Westminster Street LLC contends that Bank of America Corp., of Charlotte, NC, neglected the 428-foot-tall Industrial Trust Tower and thereby left it unrentable when it vacated the building this past spring, according to court documents and reports.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Bank of America left the skyscraper with “crumbing facades, corroded window frames and obsolete building systems” according to the complaint, filed in late July.

Superman Building
Julie 70 / Flickr

Built in 1927, the 26-story Art-deco building is referred to as the “Superman Building” because it resembles the Daily Planet building that Superman flew over during the 1950s television series. The building's last tenant, Bank of America Corp., is alleged to have neglected the building's maintenance.

Hearings in the case will begin Thursday (Nov. 14), reports said.

Bank of America, which occupied the downtown building since 2004 and moved out April 30, has denied any breach of lease and counterclaimed, contending that High Rock breached the lease.

Icon’s History

Built in 1927, the 26-story Art-deco building is referred to as the “Superman Building” because it resembles the Daily Planet building that Superman flew over during the 1950s television series.

Bank of America moved into the 350,000-square-foot building in 2004 when it purchased Fleet Bank (previous tenant) and assumed Fleet’s lease with the landlord at the time, Westminster Office 1031 LLC, according to court documents.

In 2008, High Rock purchased the building from Westminster Office for $33.2 million.

Suit: Maintenance Issues

Bank of America’s lease with High Rock provided that the tenant was responsible for maintenance of the building, according to the suit.

The complaint said numerous property condition assessments had been completed by engineers, noting necessary repairs and restoration work, but the recommendations were not heeded.

Bank of America Tower
Bank of America

Bank of America Corp. operates 5,200 retail banking offices in more than 40 countries. The Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in New York City is shown above.

According to the owner, Bank of America adopted a “purely reactive façade maintenance program that did as little as possible, as late as possible, and at as low a cost as possible,” according the complaint.

For example, the bank was said to have rented safety staging above street level to catch falling stone and brick, which was then collected in pails and stored in the building’s basement, the owner alleged.

A façade report conducted in 2012 detailed an array of issues including “excessive weathering,” vertical cracking,” “dark microbial algae growth,” “breaches in the copper flashing,” “alligatoring and cohesive failures,” and “corrosion,” the complaint said.

Other Problems, Claims

High Rock further claimed that main circuit breakers, fire protection systems, HVAC and other dated systems throughout the building were not updated as required under the lease.

The owner also alleged that Bank of America left behind "76 full-sized tractor trailer boxes" worth of office furnishings and equipment when its lease expired.

Bank of America has denied all the allegations, arguing that it was required to surrender the building “in as good condition and repair as when the Lease commenced.”

The Bank also contended that High Rock was made well aware of the bank’s intent to leave the furnishings and that High Rock breached the lease in sending the bank invoices for “hold over” rent.

In May, High Rock proposed converting the tower into apartments, but said it needed $75 million in state, federal and city assistance to do so. Funding has not materialized, however.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Building facades; Lawsuits; Maintenance programs; Office Buildings; Rehabilitation/Repair; Windows

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