JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Construction is almost complete on the new Citizens Bank Corporate Campus in Johnston.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 14. The 123-acre campus will keep thousands of jobs in Rhode Island. Citizens Bank says approximately 3,000 employees will move to the Johnston location from facilities in Cranston and Smithfield.
“This is probably the most complicated site we could’ve chosen,” said Mike Knipper, Citizens Bank’s Executive Vice President of Property Strategy. “As residents in the area unfortunately know, we blew up 129-thousand tons of rock.”
Knipper said all the ledge blown up during construction has now been used as landscaping material across the site. He also said the project will have a major effect on the surrounding community. Besides the economic impact to the town, he says area residents will benefit from the move.
“There’s now sewer and water where there was no sewer and water before,” Knipper said of the neighborhoods in the Greenville Ave area. “And there’s no assessment fees for folks to hook up to the sewers because of the project.”
Citizens Bank also removed a 4-acre landfill as part of the project.
“We took care of an environmental problem that existed for years and years,” Knipper explained.
Knipper is also hopeful that local business will see a boost as well.
“Having 3,000 people come in has an economic impact and you’ll see it in the town of Johnston,” Knipper said.
Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena agrees with Knipper.
“Well it’s a huge economic impact,” Polisena said. “First and foremost, obviously the taxes they’ll be paying. Secondly, just the businesses that are going to benefit with citizens being here.”
Polisena said the town has agreed to a 20-year property tax stabilization worth $250,000 per year. He also said the town generated $2 million in permit fees from the project, which were used to purchase two fire new trucks.
According to Polisena, Johnston also collected another $2.5 million in inspection fees.
The infrastructure in the area has also gotten an overhaul. Citizens Bank and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation split the cost of new on-ramps and off-ramps on I-295.
“They’ve improved the infrastructure of the town by extending the sewer and water line,” Polisena said. “Many people that live on Greenville Ave., they have old cesspools. And the houses are 40-50 years old and those cesspools are failing. So now they can hook up, they don’t have to pay the assessment fee which ranges from $20,000 to $25,000. They also got water lines. A lot of people have wells, now they can hook up to water.”
Polisena said sports fields and walking trails were also added to the project at the town’s request. Those facilities can be used by both Citizens Bank employees and Johnston residents
“We want the community to use those trails, and the sports fields outside,” Knipper said. “There’s bocce, baseball and soccer fields, basketball courts, beach volleyball and then there’s the tennis court.”
Knipper also said the company has “cleaned up 63 historical cemeteries in town,” and has “done a lot of work with Operation Stand Down.”
Employees at the new campus will enjoy modern buildings with state of the art upgrades and high tech security, according to Knipper.
“We have space designed to be agile,” Knipper explained. “We want our employees to be happy.”
He said many of the design concepts intended to help morale and productivity.
“You want colleagues to have the ability to go into a meeting room for a private meeting at any time. So there’s tons of meeting rooms throughout the campus,” Knipper added. “You will even see phone booths where if you need to make a private call you can sneak into a room and make a quick phone call.”
For employees, the campus also boasts a wellness center with a nurse practitioner, and a gym open 24 hours a day. There’s also a large cafeteria with modern upgrades.
Security is equally high-tech, with cameras both inside and outside the buildings. Turnstiles are positioned at all entrances, but you won’t see a traditional guard shack when you enter the campus.
Knipper said that’s because the grounds are monitored by a drone high above, as well as an autonomous robot on the ground.
“If an emergency happens and someone presses an emergency button, the drone will then deploy to that location,” said Derek Lemire, the Senior Physical Security Specialist for Citizens Bank. “It gives us a view of what’s going on. Being a large site, we want to see what’s coming through the woods to tell the difference whether is a deer or a four wheeler. So the drone will help us see what’s coming to our campus.”
Lemire said a human-sized robot patrols the grounds and resembles a large cone. It can be flagged down by someone in the event of an emergency.
“The robot is going to autonomously patrol the parking areas,” Lemire said. “It’ll do simple things like capture video of what it’s seeing, cars parked. It does license plate recognition, notices heat signals, so if a car is left running, it will send an alert.”
All video shot by the drone and robot is fed to a command center on campus that is staffed by humans 24 hours a day.
“We’ve really gone above and beyond to make it a secure facility not only for our colleagues to be safe but for our data to be safe as well,” Lemire said.
Employees will begin moving into the new offices this week.
This story has been edited from its original version to clarify the project in Johnston is a new Citizens Bank campus. The bank’s headquarters remains in Providence.