Blue Cross announced in April of 2007 that it planned to build a new tower in downtown Providence to consolidate the two buildings that it previously owned. The company had other satellite offices in four other locations. Blue Cross has been looking to relocate for three years and toured 40 locations across the state before settling on this site. The final design of the building was subject to review and approval by the Capital Center Commission
The building was slated to be 325,000 square-feet, 225 feet tall, or 12-stories, built on top of a parking garage structure already constructed by Intercontinental Development for their two residential towers at Waterplace. The building is expected to cost $114 million and house 1,100 workers, saving $25 million over the next 23 years in operations and property taxes.
Almost immediately after the plan was announced, Governor Carcieri said that he was unhappy about the plan. “It is not clear at this time that the construction of a Class A office building in one of the most expensive locations in Rhode Island comports with Blue Cross’ responsibility to provide affordable health insurance” to RI’s 700,000 customers, he said in the Projo on April 19, 2007. Blue Cross CEO Keough countered by saying that Blue Cross will not have to dig into its reserves or pass on costs to subscribers to pay for the project. Instead, they would sell its buildings at 444 Westminster St. and One Empire Place, for about $13 million and $7 million, respectively, and the remaining costs could be financed through a third-party mortgage.
The other worry of legislators, and smart move by Blue Cross, was to partner with Intercontinental Development. This let them take advantage of the more than $25 million in tax breaks, thanks to a one-of-a-kind tax plan negotiated in 2004 with Intercontinental when the developer signed its long-term lease on the two-acre Capital Center parcel and started building its residential towers. Blue Cross would get a portion of the original tax break deal.
At the end of April 2007, Boston real-estate investment firm, Berkeley Investments, closed on the two for sale Blue Cross properties. The sale price was not disclosed. In January, a Blue Cross spokeswoman predicted the company could garner $20 million from the sale. Both buildings are six stories. The 15 La Salle Square facility contains 138,128 square feet of office space; the 1 Empire St. building has 99,648.
Wow, I hope the people who bought at Waterplace on the BCBS tower side aren’t too pissed that they lost their view. Besides that, the cluster of three buildings now makes that area beyond downtown look as dense as downtown, while at the same time making the orginal building, the Avalon apartments, look bland. They are quite nice together, we think, though not any ONE single building in the cluster is spectacular all by itself. Still, they were smart to locate close to the train station, what with the new spur going all the way down to Warwick and the airport – smarter still, they built LEED certified to reduce their operating costs even more over time.
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