The Industrial National Bank Building in Providence has towered quietly over the city since 1927 and has remained vacant for almost 10 years, but reports are surfacing about potential negotiations between the owner of the “Superman Building” and Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, in hopes of bringing new life to the state’s tallest building.

Designed by the New York firm Walker & Gillette, the Industrial National Bank Building has had many names during its time, but locals know it by one name only: The Superman Building.

Its striking similarity to the Daily Planet newspaper headquarters seen in the Superman comic books resulted in the loving nickname, but the building hasn’t seen much love since 2013.

After Bank of America vacated the building in 2013, it stayed vacant. High Rock Westminster LLC bought the building in 2008, but after its request for public subsidies was shot down, its hands have been tied ever since.

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State Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor recently told The Providence Journal that the McKee administration is “in the midst of a constructive dialogue with the building owner” and listed several priorities for the state as it tries to agree on an appropriate resurgence of the building, such as guaranteeing that at least some of the units will be affordable and making sure David Sweetser of High Rock Development puts enough of his own money into the project to make a conversion project work.

At this time, nothing is set in stone. While the negotiations sound promising, the future of the Superman Building remains a mystery.

Personally, I would hate to see the building become apartments. It’s a historic landmark and deserves the chance to serve the entire community, not just financially qualified tenants.

I say make it an museum. It could be a living and breathing history book of the rich culture that Rhode Island has to offer. Providence is known for its creative arts, and I think it could bring plenty of economic value to the city.

What do you think? If the building gets a second shot, what should it be?

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