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Citizens Bank building new corporate campus in Johnston

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Citizens Financial Group later this year will begin construction of a new corporate campus on an undeveloped parcel of land west of I-295 in Johnston.

Eyewitness News broke the story in December that Citizens was looking to build a new suburban campus in Rhode Island. The bank revealed the location of that campus during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Johnston Senior Center.

The campus will include about 420,000 square feet of office and meeting space, and 3,200 current employees will move to the new office.

Chairman and CEO Bruce Van Saun says Citizens chose not to renew its lease at its Cranston offices, which is up in 2018.

“That facility…was going to need a lot of work to suit our future needs,” Van Saun told Eyewitness News after the announcement.

johnston citizens campus site map
Rendering courtesy of Citizens Financial Group. Click to enlarge »

The new site is off of Greenville Ave in Johnston, where the state has agreed to build new exit ramps off of I-295. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Citizens Bank will split the cost of the new exits.

“As I’ve said many times, first-class companies need first-class infrastructure,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said, referring to the new ramps. Raimondo said the state’s Commerce Corporation did not offer any tax incentives to Citizens Bank.

“I think we can make the economics work without that,” Van Saun said. “And I think there’s potentially a bit of a backlash when people see that take place.”

Van Saun said the company did not consider leaving Rhode Island.

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena  says the city is offering Citizens Bank a 20-year property tax stabilization agreement, the details of which Mayor Polisena would not disclose until the deal is finalized.

“It’s advantageous to Citizens, and it’s very advantageous to the town of Johnston,” Polisena said.

Polisena said property values in the area should increase with Citizens Bank in town, and local businesses will benefit from the surge of employees working there. He also praised the construction jobs that will come once ground breaks on the project later this year.

“We have a lot of working class people in the town in the construction industry, and it’s going to put them to work,” Polisena said.

The construction company contracted to build the campus said there would be hundreds of workers on the site.

Robert Coupe, the Director of Administration for the City of Cranston, said city officials tried to convince Citizens Bank to stay in the city in talks several months ago.

“Unfortunately we simply could not offer the space and setting that they were seeking,” Coupe said in an email. He added that the new facility was still close enough to Cranston for employees to visit restaurants and stores there.

“With thousands more employees located so close by, this move may have a significant positive economic impact on Cranston,” Coupe said.

He said the city is working with the owner of the space currently housing Citizens Bank to find a new use.

The bank said its headquarters will remain in downtown Providence. Citizens has about 5,300 total employees in Rhode Island, including workers at branch locations.

The decision to build the new Johnston campus comes as Citizens executives continue to chart its course as an independent bank, following its recent spin-off from U.K.-based Royal Bank of Scotland, its parent company since 1988. European officials forced RBS to sell Citizens after the British lender received a huge government bailout during the financial crisis.

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