PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Senate President Dominick Ruggerio on Friday walked back comments he made a day earlier suggesting the developer of the Superman building is seeking more state money, even as officials acknowledge the overall cost of the project has increased.

The rising cost of borrowing has hit development projects across the country and Rhode Island isn’t getting spared. On Thursday, the Senate president told The Providence Journal that the Superman developer, High Rock, was “looking for additional money from the state.”

On Friday, Ruggerio spokesperson Greg Pare backed off the statement, saying the Senate president wasn’t aware of any meetings, but rather was “speaking in generalities” and didn’t know any specifics.

“He’s unaware of them asking for any additional money at this point,” Pare said, adding that Ruggerio has not participated personally in any meetings on the matter.

The developer, however, has been meeting regularly with state and local leaders, including Gov. Dan McKee, Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner, Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor and Providence Mayor Brett Smiley.

“Recent conversations have been about increasing interest rates and how it impacts the project,” Smiley spokesperson Patricia Socarras said in a statement.

High Rock spokesperson Bill Fischer confirmed as much Friday, saying rising interest rates and other economic pressures have increased the total cost of the project, pegged at $220 million when it was announced a year ago.

At the time, $26.2 million of the project’s budget was slated to come from the state; $15 million from Providence; up to $24.1 million from federal tax credits; and the rest was to be financed by High Rock through a mix of cash, debt and equity.

Fischer declined to provide a new cost estimate on Friday, but he signaled the developer may not be able to cover the gap with private money alone.

“What we are evaluating now is how much of the increased gap we can bear internally,” Fischer said. “To date, we have not made a specific request for increased support at the State House.”

The discussion comes amid widespread uncertainty over the outlook for Rhode Island’s biggest development projects. The rising cost of borrowing has hampered developers’ ability to profit on projects across the country.

Earlier this month, Fane Tower developer Jason Fane pulled the plug on plans to build a residential skyscraper in downtown Providence. The tower would have been the state’s tallest building, stealing the title from the Superman building at 111 Westminster St.

Target 12 first reported this week public officials have hit the pause button on $27 million of bonds to help build the 10,000-seat minor-league soccer stadium currently underway alongside the Seekonk River in Pawtucket. McKee, who has championed the project, said Friday he’s still bullish the development will move forward.

But it remains unclear whether the developer, Fortuitous Partners, is ready to close on its debt financing, which is a requirement for the deal to close. There’s currently no timeline for when that might happen and interest rates have continued to increase, with the Federal Reserve raising its short-term rates again this week.

In Providence, the Superman building — an iconic piece of the city’s skyline — has sat vacant since Bank of America moved out in 2013. Last year, elected officials and developer David Sweetser announced with great fanfare that they had finally reached a public-private partnership to rehabilitate the Art Deco skyscraper.

And while public officials were initially quick to approve public financing to move forward with a plan to turn the former bank into residential and commercial units, there’s little evidence from the outside that much has happened since.

Commerce spokesperson Lindsay Russell said High Rock has “not applied for additional funding,” but state leaders and High Rock are “meeting regularly.” She confirmed that nearly a year after the plan was announced, the two sides still have not signed a final incentive agreement.

Russell did not respond to a question about whether the McKee administration supports providing more taxpayer money for the project, and the governor’s office referred all questions to Commerce.

City Council President Rachel Miller said Friday the council has not received any requests for more funding from the Superman developers. The council has already approved a $5 million direct payment from the city to the project, along with $29 million in tax breaks for the first 30 years after the building opens. The Providence Redevelopment Agency has also approved a $10 million low-interest loan.

Asked if she would be comfortable appropriating more city funds to the project, Miller said she wants the council to receive an update on the financing and budget for the development.

On Smith Hill, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi “has had no contact with the ownership group of the Superman building or their representatives,” spokesperson Larry Berman said.

“He is unaware of the status of the project or any request they may have for additional funding,” Berman said. “If there should be such a request, as he has said in the past, it must go through a full and thorough public vetting process by the House Finance Committee.”

Despite the ongoing economic pressures, Fischer highlighted that no public money has been spent on the project so far and they have been working privately on “select demolition,” architectural plans and engineering and environmental analyses.

High Rock remains optimistic the project will move forward as planned, even if it costs more, according to Fischer.

“We have not paused nor do we plan to mothball our development plans,” he said. “High Rock Development remains fully committed to continuing its work with all stakeholders in attempting to advance this project in order to bring it to reality.”

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Steph Machado ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.