PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Citizens Financial Group Inc. is actively weighing whether to move about 4,000 of its workers to a newly built corporate campus on vacant land in Rhode Island, although its headquarters will remain in Providence, WPRI.com has confirmed.
Senior executives at Citizens, one of the state’s largest for-profit employers, scheduled presentations at its boardroom in Boston last month to hear from architects vying to handle the project, according to a document obtained by WPRI.com.
The document says Citizens is envisioning the possibility of a campus that would encompass 480,000 to 500,000 square feet of space in one or two buildings, which “must seamlessly accommodate both a high-density call center operation and executive offices.”
Jim Hughes, a Citizens spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that the new campus is an option for the bank if it decides not to renew the lease on its current operations center on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston. He did not say which parcels of land the bank is eyeing for the potential campus.
“The lease for our service and support facility in Cranston expires in 2018,” Hughes told WPRI.com. “We are exploring several opportunities ranging from renewal to potentially consolidating some of our staff and back office functions at a new location in Rhode Island.”
Hughes said even if Citizens does opt to build the new campus, the bank will keep its headquarters in Providence, which is currently in the downtown One Citizens Plaza tower. Citizens has about 5,300 total employees in Rhode Island, including workers at branches.
The discussion about a new facility 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 regulators forced RBS to sell Citizens after the British lender received a huge government bailout during the financial crisis.
Gov. Gina Raimondo and Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor have been in active discussions with Citizens executives about its future in Rhode Island since even before Raimondo was inaugurated in January, including multiple phone calls between Raimondo and Citizens CEO Bruce Van Saun.
Melissa Czerwein, a spokeswoman for Pryor, welcomed the news Tuesday about Citizens’ commitment to staying in Rhode Island, describing the bank as “a valued Rhode Island institution with deep Rhode Island roots.”
“We are very pleased that Citizens has confirmed its commitment to Rhode Island, its home state,” Czerwein told WPRI.com in an email. “And we look forward to collaborating further with the bank regarding its plans going forward.”
If Citizens does opt to build the new corporate campus, it would likely dash the hopes of former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino and others who have strongly urged the bank to move into the vacant “Superman” building downtown.
Citizens officials have never commented on the speculation about the bank moving into the empty skyscraper – and again declined to do so on Tuesday – but lobbyists for the 26-story building’s owner have privately pushed Raimondo to help them woo Citizens. It’s unclear whether such discussions have come to an end.
The document setting out guidelines for architects who want to design the Citizens campus emphasizes that it will need to fit parking along with buildings on the “various finalist land parcels.” Along with work spaces, the new facility would house “an array of services including dining, fitness, convenience retail, large room conference, etc.”
“Supportive retail development, integrated into the overall campus development may be desired,” the document adds.
The new campus would house an estimated 4,000 Citizens employees total, according to the document. The first phase of the project would total 400,000 square feet and house 3,200 employees starting in November 2018. The second phase would total 100,000 square feet and house 800 employees starting in June 2024.
Citizens is expected to make a final decision on the selection of a design team for the project by Dec. 15, the document says.