JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A major development, being called Project Schooner, could take up vacant land of Route 6 in Johnston. And it’s sparking major speculation.
The town’s planning board discussed the potential construction of a six-story retail distribution facility off Route 6 during a virtual meeting Tuesday night.
Flyers that were anonymously distributed to residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the property in question claim the project will be an Amazon.com distribution facility.
Amazon was not mentioned specifically by name in reference to this project during the meeting.
According to the planning board meeting agenda, the applicant is Bluewater Property Group. The company is currently eyeing nine lots, which in total take up approximately 4 million square feet, off a busy portion of Hartford Avenue near I-295.
“Do you want Johnston to be the next Fall River?” one flyer reads. (Right now, the closest Amazon distribution center to Rhode Island is located in Fall River.)
During Tuesday night’s meeting, John Bolton, an attorney for Bluewater, called the anonymous flyers “inaccurate” and “reckless.”
“These anonymous flyers that we have received, there are substantial falsehoods regarding the project set forth on these materials being distributed,” Bolton said.
Bolton said both a hotline and email address have been set up specifically for members of the public to request more information regarding the project or express concerns.
“We want this to be a completely transparent process, my client demands that,” Bolton said.
12 News asked Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena whether Amazon is behind the proposed massive distribution center, but he wouldn’t comment on that specifically.
“I’m in favor of any company coming in that’s going to give us a steady stream of taxes, stabilize the tax base and be able to build new schools and improve infrastructure without raising taxes,” Polisena said.
The mayor also believes the project, if approved, could create up to 2,000 jobs.
Bolton added, “We look forward to serving forth the facts, including both the substantial job creation and financial benefits to the town.”
The planning board agreed Tuesday night to move the public hearing on the matter to Feb. 16 because one of the abutting property owners hadn’t been properly notified about the project.
A spokesperson for Amazon would not confirm whether the company is seeking to build a distribution center in Johnston.
“Amazon has a policy of not commenting on rumors or speculation,” spokesperson Katelyn Richardson said in an email. “The company is constantly investigating new locations to support the growth and increase the flexibility of its North American fulfillment network to address customer needs.”
Matt Sheaff, a spokesperson for the R.I. Commerce Corp., also declined to confirm if the e-commerce giant was behind the proposal.
“Our policy at Commerce is not to comment on hypotheticals like the one mentioned here,” said spokesperson Matt Scheaff. “However, our team at Commerce remains focused both on supporting existing businesses here and on helping new businesses locate here — all so we can create job opportunities for Rhode Islanders right here in our state.”
12 News reached out to the applicant’s attorney for additional comment but has not yet heard back.