38 Studios HQ had expired occupancy permit for 8 months

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The failed video game company founded by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling had an expired occupancy permit for its headquarters in downtown Providence in the eight months before it filed for bankruptcy, according to city officials.

Records reviewed by Eyewitness News show the city issued three separate temporary occupancy permits for 38 Studios at One Empire Street between April 2011 and September 2011, but there is no record for a valid permit in the months leading up to the company’s collapse.

In a three-hour interview with WPRO host John DePetro Tuesday morning, Schilling claimed the company never received an occupancy permit “because I signed autographs for the people that were coming in to do the inspections, and apparently that was how it worked.”

He later told reporters he didn’t trade “autographs for occupancy,” but said he did sign autographs for “people that were doing the stuff.”

Jeffrey Lykins, the city’s director of the department of inspection and standards, said it is common for the city to issue temporary occupancy permits when a business has only minor outstanding issues to resolve. Each permit he provided to Eyewitness News included the signatures of four different city inspectors as well as two fire prevention workers.

“If the building is safe, we would allow it,” Lykins said.

Lykins said the city can “issue a violation,” when a temporary occupancy permit expires, but acknowledged there is no record of 38 Studios facing a city fine between September 2011 and May 2012 when the company filed for bankruptcy and laid off 300 employees.

The Empire Street building was formerly home to Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island office and is located across from AS220 and next to Providence Public Library’s central branch. The building now houses Roger Williams University.

Schilling said 38 Studios spent $10 million on the build out for its headquarters, which he claimed in a 2010 email he wanted “to be the [expletive] taj mahal when we put butts in seats.”

The permits show Nappa Construction Management was the contractor for the 38 Studios building. In 2010, Steve Nappa, the company’s owner, served as chairman of the Providence Building Board of Review, a mayoral-appointed panel that has the ability to grant relief from the state building code.

There is no record that anyone from 38 Studios appeared in front of the Building Board of Review.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan