Curiosity About the Sale of Assets

shephardbuilding-featured

This news isn’t sufficiently filled out, yet, to offer a firm reaction:

The University of Rhode Island’s Providence campus would move out of the historic Shepard Building to an unknown location under state plans to sell government real estate released on Friday evening.

The state Board of Elections would be moved out of its current Providence headquarters on Branch Avenue, and the state Medical Examiner’s Office would move from its laboratory on Orms Street in the next two years, according to the proposals from an ad hoc committee charged with finding state savings. The recommendations do not say where either of those agencies would go.

The real estate sales are part of a wider effort by a group of state officials and groups with business before the state, known as the Efficiency Commission, to come up with at least $10 million in money-saving ideas for the budget year that starts July 1.

Efficiency is a good thing, and if it doesn’t make sense for government to continue owning particular properties, then it shouldn’t, but if the efficiencies and the sale of assets result from the government’s inability to continue paying its bills, that’s a whole nother thing.  Once the state government collects the estimated $16–25 million in sales revenue, the assets are gone, but the spending is still there.

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The article states that moving out of the buildings will save $2.5 million per year in “operating costs,” but note, in particular, that “those figures do not include the cost of finding new homes for the current occupants.”  If rent and other costs to house these government agencies elsewhere are roughly a wash, then we’re back to selling assets for its own sake.  And that can be an ominous sign if the government isn’t giving a clearer rationale for why it would do so other than “efficiency.”

One can’t help but wonder, too, what sort of tax increase the City of Providence will see if the state government hands off property to a private owner.



  • ShannonEntropy

    Call me a cynic, but I can’t help wondering if, after the current office buildings are sold off, the State / Swamp then buys other properties at way inflated prices from donor / insiders to house those same offices

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose !!

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Same as above. Of course, if it is sold it can be said “We raised 10 million”. If that same sum, or more, has to be spent to replace it, well, “that’s another budget, isn’t it?”.
      Macht Nicht
      I do not like to engage in “social engineering”, but I suspect a building full of college students adds more vitality to downtown than a lot of 9-5ers.

      An aside. A friend, real estate developer, from Boston came down the other day. It was the first time he had been to Providence. His comment “It looks like it used to be a wealthy town”.

      • ShannonEntropy

        Have that guy redevelop the Superman Bldg

        Actually I think that bldg is doomed. There isn’t enough plumbing infrastructure to turn it into a residential property. And the trend in office space these days is towards much more open floor plans with higher person-per-floor density & higher ceilings; and big corner offices are definitely out of style right now

        So the same plumbing problems apply plus much more HVAC capacity and number of elevators would be necessary to transform it into a successful office bldg. It would be impossible to do all that without completely gutting the interior

        Might as well tear it down and build a much-need parking garage there so the homeless bums that populate Kennedy Plaza will have somewhere to go in inclement weather

        • Rhett Hardwick

          “Actually I think that bldg is doomed. There isn’t enough plumbing infrastructure to turn it into a residential property. ”

          Maybe it just needs a new idea. Such as a college building with classrooms on the first ten floors, then dorms with “bath down the hall’ above.

          While I admire the Art Deco styling, much was the result of “rules”. A “set back” requirement every few stories to prevent a canyon effect where they were side by side. An Architectural Rule about having desk tops within 10(?) feet of a window (solved by modern lighting). And the problem of elevators. With “set back” height produced diminishing returns of floor space with room for elevators on lower floors increasing. I wonder what percent of the first ten floors is taken up by elevator shafts.

          • ShannonEntropy

            I wonder what percent of the first ten floors is taken up by elevator shafts.

            Any rehab of the bldg would require at least a few more elevator banks than currently exist. That is a structural engineering prablem that might be impossible to overcome

            And here I thought your main objection would be to the current preference for higher ceilings. I am not familiar enough with the structural design of the bldg nor the history of skyscraper construction to know if the INBB
            — which was completed in 1927 — used drop ceilings to conceal duct work and other utilities.

            If so all that stuff could be replaced behind interior walls so that the new ceiling would be the bottom of the floor above, freeing up several feet of overhead space. If not, that is a major, maybe insurmountable prablem

            Maybe it just needs a new idea. Such as a college building with classrooms on the first ten floors, then dorms with “bath down the hall’ above.

            Not to call you a ‘dinosaur’ … but the current trend is for most college dorm rooms to be 1 student / 1 bath per dorm room. Most kids going to college these days have never even had share a bedroom, let alone sharing a bathroom with 10 other people.

            There’s a great book that addresses this dorm issue and many other “lifestyle” and other issues on modern college campuses:

            https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8243541-the-five-year-party

            [ You may have noticed I read a LOT of books about “higher” education. I can bet you know the reason why ]

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “Not to call you a ‘dinosaur’ ”

            I did spend a night in a Harvard “unisex” dorm when I was not quite 40. I found the unisex bath to be of some interest, and that a guy of about 40 was of some interest to them. No one asked.

  • ShannonEntropy

    The state Board of Elections would be moved out of its current Providence headquarters on Branch Avenue, and the state Medical Examiner’s Office would move from its laboratory on Orms Street in the next two years… The recommendations do not say where either of those agencies would go.

    I heard a rumor that the ME’s cramped offices would take over the entire BoE Bldg on Branch Ave. Now that kind of re-structuring makes sense

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