BofA settles lawsuit over Superman building

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A lawsuit filed by the owner of Providence’s vacant Superman building against its former tenant, Bank of America, has been settled just as a trial was about to begin.

U.S. District Judge William Smith confirmed the case settled Friday evening.

The building’s owner, High Rock Development, sued Bank of America in 2013 after the bank decided to move its workers out of the downtown landmark, eventually seeking damages of $54 million over the bank’s alleged failure to comply with its lease requirements. Bank of America has fought the allegations.

Smith ruled last September that the suit would go to a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin Monday.

Daniel Lyne, a lawyer for High Rock, said the two sides “expect to issue a brief announcement later today.”

The 26-story skyscraper was built in 1927 by the Industrial Trust Co., which later became Fleet Financial. (The “Superman” nickname references its similarity to the Daily Planet building in the 1950s TV show.)

Fleet sold the building in 2003, a year before Fleet itself was bought by Bank of America, but signed a 10-year lease to keep its employees there. High Rock purchased the building – and the bank’s triple net lease – in 2008 for $33.2 million.

The vacant building is now entering its fifth year as a white elephant, and its prominent spot downtown has turned it into a symbol of Rhode Island’s economic challenges. The owner and elected officials have made some fitful efforts to woo a new tenant, including Citizens Financial Group and PayPal, but so far without success.

In the meantime, High Rock has been opening the building to members of the public for a series of popular tours.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook