$75M warehouse facility planned in Johnston; occupant a mystery

Updated at 4:58 p.m.

THE I-295 COMMERCE CENTER is a $75 million retail warehouse project planned between the existing Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale Club off of Stonehill Drive. The facility would span 555,980 square feet and would be 50 feet tall, built on a 44-acre property, according to the developer, the Missouri-based NorthPoint Development. / COURTESY JOHNSTON PLANNING BOARD
THE I-295 COMMERCE CENTER is a $75 million retail warehouse project planned between the existing Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale Club off of Stonehill Drive. The facility would span 555,980 square feet and would be 50 feet tall, built on a 44-acre property, according to the developer, the Missouri-based NorthPoint Development. / COURTESY JOHNSTON PLANNING BOARD

JOHNSTON – After town officials last year signed off on a massive Amazon fulfillment center that’s now under construction, plans for another retail warehouse and distribution facility were recently approved by the Johnston Planning Board following a presentation by the property developer, the Missouri-based NorthPoint Development LLC.

And just like when the 3.8-million-square-feet, 6-story Amazon facility went through the town’s regulatory process, the future occupant of the newly proposed warehouse facility is not yet being named. The project is being referred to simply as the “I-295 Commerce Center.”

The Johnston Planning Board voted 4-0 on Jan. 4 to approve the major land development master plan for a 555,980-square-foot, 50-foot-tall retail distribution facility on a 44-acre property located between the existing Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale Club off of Stonehill Drive. NorthPoint Development, which didn’t disclose the future occupant of the building, said it would be a $75 million project.

In response to an email seeking comment and additional information, NorthPoint Development said the project is estimated to bring “499 new direct and indirect jobs to the local community.”

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The company said the I-295 Commerce Center would create a $68.9 million capital investment “prior to any additional investments by future tenants.”

The current timeline puts completion of the I-295 Commerce Center project in spring 2023, NorthPoint Development said in the email.

Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena said he welcomes the project “with open arms,” stating that it will bring 300 permanent jobs and would add to the tax base, on the heels of the Amazon project.

“It’ll be very advantageous for not just the people of Johnston, but for the state quite frankly, with all the payroll taxes,” Polisena said. “I think it’s a win-win. I’m on board. I think it’s great. It’s another revenue-producing project for the town.”

Much like the Amazon project, which was cryptically referred to as “Project Schooner” until a tax deal was reached with the company, Polisena claimed that he’s not sure of the eventual occupant of the property, but that he has been in communication with the ownership of NorthPoint Development about the details of the project.

“I’m not going to play detective,” he said.

Polisena said his only concern is mitigating the impact of traffic, by restricting access to and from the project from Interstate 295 and Route 6, keeping company trucks off of Atwood Avenue.

“We’re still working with the Department of Transportation on that,” said Polisena, reached on Friday afternoon. “I’m very excited to be working with them. The only caveat is I cannot put more traffic on Atwood Avenue.”

NorthPoint Development declined to name the future tenant of the property in an email to Providence Business News.

“We are unable to comment on the future business this project could bring to Johnston at this time, but this site’s strategic location will play a key role as demand for shorter shipping time increases,” the Missouri-based company stated.

NorthPoint Development also claimed that the project could lead to traffic improvements.

“This investment could bring hundreds of good-paying jobs to further strengthen the short- and long-term economy for the City of Johnston, while also opening up the opportunity to alleviate current traffic congestion through traffic studies and infrastructure improvements,” the company said.

The undeveloped property is zoned B-3, which is intended to encourage and enable large-scale development, according to Planning Board documents.

The 44-acre property is currently owned by Stonehill Drive LLC, which has a purchase and sales agreement that it reached with NorthPoint Development in July, contingent on the development of the property.

In a report to the board, staff for the Johnston Planning & Economic Development said discussions are ongoing with R.I. Department of Transportation on how to best develop access for truck traffic to the I-295 Commerce Center site from either Route 6 or Interstate 295. The staff report, which recommended the approval of the master plan, also said the project may require a variance related to parking requirements, with only 676 spaces proposed, with 1,117 required for a building of this size.

“Additionally, the ordinance requires one electric vehicle charging station per 100 employees,” the staff report states. “Charging spots are not identified at this stage.”

NorthPoint Development needs to return at a future date for approval of a more detailed proposal, called the preliminary plan, including plans for signage, lighting, parking and a traffic mitigation plan.

“Failure to arrive at an acceptable traffic mitigation plan will make the eventual recommendation for approval of this plan impossible,” according to the staff report.

(ADDS paragraphs 13-16 with comment from NorthPoint.)

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.

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