Citizens Bank announced plans Wednesday to build a new 420,000-square foot corporate campus on an undeveloped parcel on the west side of I-295 in Johnston, to absorb more than 3,200 employees from current office sites in Cranston, East Providence, Warwick and Smithfield.
"We had an exhaustive search of all the potential options, and we thought this was best for us, for our needs," Citizens CEO Bruce Van Saun told RIPR after a news conference at the Johnston Senior Center.
Most of the workers will come from a Cranston office for which the lease expires in 2018. The bank plans to keep its headquarters at a downtown Providence building.
Governor Gina Raimondo hailed Citizens' decision to build in Johnston as a vote of confidence in Rhode Island. She was joined by Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena and a host of other elected officials in praising the announcement.
"It shows us that Citizens is recommitting itself to Rhode Island and expanding and choosing to put a beautiful new campus in Johnston," Raimondo said.
Van Saun declined to specify why Citizens ruled out the vacant so-called Superman Building in downtown Providence as a new location for bank employees, although sources said the bank seriously considered it. "I'd prefer not to go into the criteria that we chose," Van Saun said. "I just think that based on the kind of people that we have that are currently located in a suburban location this works out best for us."
Groundbreaking on the new campus is expected to happen this year, ahead of its opening in 2018.
About five thousand of Citizens' 18,000-person workforce is based in Rhode Island. Raimondo said Citizens is the 13th-largest bank in the US.
Asked if there was a serious possibility that Citizens might leave Rhode Island, Van Saun said, "We didn't really look at other alternatives. We're very satisfied with the quality of workforce we have here and the ability to work with the people in the state to make sure that they're investing in the needs for the future. You may have seen the governor just announced on Monday a new investment in technology in the schools, which also, I think, positions the state to continue to suit us for the long term."
Citizens said the future campus is made possible by infrastructure improvements such as the extension of sewer lines into the area of the site. The project calls for the construction of a new exit on I-295, the cost of which will be divided by Citizens and the state Department of Transportation. The plan also involves a 20-year property tax agreement that faces approval by the Johnston Town Council.
The Johnston location will include a call center, executive offices, a cafeteria and a fitness center, as well as recreational facilities like trails and ball fields open to non-employees. Van Saun said it will allow Citizens to serve its customers more efficiently, and that workers will be able to work more collaboratively.
Citizens was spun off by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2015 and is now an independent entity.
On the Superman Building, Raimondo said her administration continues to work with Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza to try to revive the building.
This post has been updated.