Bank of America breached its lease when it vacated the so-called Superman building in downtown Providence last spring and left it in "unrentable" condition, a lawyer for its owner told a federal judge Thursday.
Massachusetts-based developer High Rock filed a $23 million-plus lawsuit against the bank in July. Lawyers for both sides made their first appearance in U.S. District Court before a magistrate judge on Thursday and offered proposed timelines for moving the case toward a jury trial.
Daniel Lyne, an attorney representing High Rock, said the bank neglected the Art Deco-style skyscraper at 111 Westminster St., leaving code violations, a crumbling facade and 76 tractor-trailer loads of deconstructed furniture and other material that need to be hauled away.
"It makes this building entirely unrentable. It makes this building entirely unshowable," Lyne said. "The former tenant didn't do what it promised to do."
Earlier this year, High Rock floated a plan to use tens of millions of dollars in government support to convert the building into apartments, but the proposal went nowhere. High Rock, which bought the building in 2008, has said it needs extensive repairs and renovations.
Lyne said High Rock is also seeking $2 million in "holdover" rent for the period, after Bank of America moved out, during which it says it could not bring in anyone new.
Jonathan Fitch, an attorney for Bank of America, said in court his client was a responsible tenant. He said Bank of America hired a world-class property manager who identified and oversaw all the maintenance that needed to be done.
"The bank did not have an obligation to renovate this building," he said. "It maintained the building, it spent the money to keep it in the condition" required under the lease.
The parties told the judge that Bank of America recently agreed to pay High Rock $350,000 to haul away the furnishings left behind; it handed over the check this week. But Fitch said the bank intends to seek to be reimbursed because it doesn't believe it's responsible for that job. Lyne said High Rock will move to have the counterclaim dismissed.
The property is known as the Superman building for its resemblance to the Daily Planet building in the old "Superman" TV show.