According to GoLocalProv.com, former mayor and longtime property owner Joseph Paolino Jr. wants to tear down Providence’s beloved Industrial Trust Building – widely known as the Superman Building – vacant since 2013.
Who does the PR for this guy?
The Industrial Trust’s chief rival as iconic building is the Rhode Island State House itself. Paolino’s proposal is even worse than Governor Almond’s plan 20 years ago to demolish its neighbor, the Masonic Temple. It was vacant since 1928 (the same year the Industrial Trust was completed). Now the temple is a successful luxury hotel.
GoLocal declared the Industrial Trust to be “Rhode Island’s biggest eyesore.” Huh? Maybe the writer meant “white elephant.” which would at least be accurate.
GoLocal’s story “Plan to Build Hasbro Headquarters in Providence – Demo Superman Building” reports that Paolino’s plan is one of several responding to rumors that the toymaker might acquire rival Mattel. Poor Pawtucket! Imagine losing both Hasbro and the PawSox in one fell swoop.
I’m sure GoLocal’s reporting of Paolino’s proposal is accurate; it’s Paolino’s proposal that reads like fake news.
Imagine Paolino paying millions to buy the Industrial Trust, then paying millions more to clear the land, then paying millions more to build an ugly 36-story tower on it when he already owns a large vacant lot across the street.
Why? How does this make sense?
In fact, Paolino’s proposal makes perfect sense in the context of Providence’s recent development history. The policy of the current and recent mayors seems to be this: Tear down everything that represents the city’s venerable brand and replace it with anything that can be relied upon to weaken its brand.
Hey! Sounds like a plan! This plan has a pedigree that reaches back to the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
For those shaking their heads in wonder, yes, Providence has already traveled down that road. The Downtown Providence 1970 Plan, announced in 1960, proposed demolishing the city’s beauty and replacing it with ugliness. Pure urban removal. Fortunately, only Cathedral Square and Westminster Mall were built. The former, though the brainchild of modernist icon I.M. Pei, remains dead space. As for the latter, Paolino himself deserves a lot of credit, as mayor in the 1980s, for removing the failed pedestrian mall, which was just as ugly as Cathedral Square, and replacing it with a street that can sit alongside many of Europe’s finest for beauty and civility.
But poor Joe Junior appears to have learned nothing even from his own role in the history of the city where he once was mayor.