PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island has emerged as a finalist in the competition to land a new PayPal operations center, and one of the options the company is considering is moving into the long-vacant Superman building, WPRI.com has learned.
Multiple people with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed that the Superman building is in the mix for PayPal, but they also emphasized that the company has not chosen Rhode Island yet and cautioned that its executives have scouted a number of potential locations around the state.
Matt Sheaff, a spokesman for the R.I. Commerce Corporation, declined Wednesday to comment specifically on whether PayPal is looking at the building but confirmed that state officials remain in active discussions with the company about potentially expanding into Rhode Island.
Documents obtained by WPRI.com show PayPal has issued a request for proposal to David Sweetser, who has owned the building at 111 Westminster Street since 2008. The request, dated Aug. 18, states the company is seeking 60,000 square feet of rentable space in an “open office” layout. Sweetser was asked to provide renderings of the building and parking areas.
Gov. Gina Raimondo has been working aggressively to court PayPal since April, when company executives abruptly canceled plans to build the new operations center in North Carolina after that state passed a law critics said discriminates against LGBT citizens. The governor’s efforts have included trips to California and New York to woo PayPal’s senior team.
A successful effort to get PayPal into the Superman building could represent a major coup for Raimondo and other Rhode Island leaders. The downtown Providence skyscraper, Rhode Island’s tallest building, has been empty and decaying since Bank of America moved its workers out back in 2013.
An effort to convince Citizens Financial Group to choose Superman for the bank’s new headquarters fell through when CEO Bruce Van Saun decided the company would prefer a suburban campus; Citizens broke ground on the new facility in Johnston on Wednesday.
One sticking point on a PayPal-Superman deal could be cost. Sweetser has repeatedly argued the building needs significant renovations that cannot be funded without government assistance.
Bill Fischer, a spokesman for Sweetser, declined to comment.
Any transaction would also likely require a break on Providence property taxes, which are among the highest in the country for commercial real estate. A spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza also declined to comment.
PayPal, based in San Jose, California, was a pioneer in online payments and posted total revenue of more than $9 billion last year. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PayPal would be the second major company to announce an expansion into Rhode Island in recent months, following General Electric, which announced plans earlier this year to open a new GE Digital office in Providence.Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and InstagramDan McGowan (email@example.com) covers politics and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan