Citizens Bank commercial space in East Providence eyed for state offices

THE STATE is looking to purchase this 210,000-square foot Citizens Bank building at 115 Tripps Lane, East Providence, for use by unspecified state agencies. /COURTESY OF HAYES & SHERRY VIA THE RHODE ISLAND CURRENT

The R.I. Department of Administration is looking to acquire a 210,000-square foot building in East Providence from Citizens Bank for use as state offices.

Built in 1979 and renovated in 2010, the property at 115 Tripps Lane in the Riverside section of East Providence includes a 60,000-square foot state-of-the-art data center that makes it “uniquely appealing for a long-term investment for State use,” according to a fiscal 2025 budget amendment Gov. Dan McKee submitted to the General Assembly.

McKee is seeking $33.67 million to fund the purchase. The list price was $27 million, Director of Administration Jonathan Womer told the Senate Finance Committee at a Statehouse hearing Tuesday. Womer said state officials became interested in the building last fall. The State Properties Committee granted approval to begin negotiations last month.

The city of East Providence assesses the property at $16.94 million.

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The proposal has emerged well into the budget process and just as state officials are considering options for a projected $58 million in surplus revenues from the fiscal year that ends June 30, and fiscal 2025 combined. The House Committee on Finance will review McKee’s request when it meets Thursday at 4 p.m.

An online listing indicates that the building is vacant but a Citizens spokesperson said the bank has 600 employees working out of the space in operations and a mix of various functions, down from 900 pre-pandemic.

“The building has been on the market for two years and our broker has shown the property to several potential buyers,” said Rory Sheehan, head of enterprise communications for Citizens in an email Tuesday.

“Since the pandemic, workforce trends have accelerated and more Citizens colleagues are engaged in flexible work. Given these ongoing trends we continue to assess the space we need in properties across our footprint. In the event that there is a sale, colleagues assigned to the building on Tripps Lane would be assigned to our Johnston campus.”

The Johnston campus opened in 2018.

The property is intended to house several state agencies now leasing space or occupying aging buildings elsewhere. Department of Administration spokesperson Christina O’Reilly said discussions are taking place with the Department of Environmental Management, the Division of Enterprise Technology Strategy and Services, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Human Services.

“The building has the ability to accommodate a number of different users, depending on their operational needs. The initial round of potential users was determined by comparing an agency’s current footprint, use, and occupancy costs to the opportunity presented by Tripps Lane,” O’Reilly said.

The proposed budget resolution acknowledges the significant price tag but states the investment would be offset by terminating costly leases and the expense of moving state agencies around to maintain and renovate their spaces. The state would save $39 million over 10 years, according to Womer’s presentation to lawmakers. Much of the savings would come from eliminating the $2.5 million a year lease, plus $500,000 in annual utilities, that the state is paying for the R.I Department of Environmental Management, Womer said.

“The savings over time associated with this property make financing an economically efficient option,” according to the resolution.

The total cost would be financed through the issuance of certificates of participation with a term of up to 10 years. Total debt service on the State’s obligation is not expected to exceed $44.5 million based on an estimated average interest rate of 5.50%.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have yet to support McKee’s proposed budget amended, one of 19 submitted to date.

“The Senate President and Speaker will wait for the hearings to take place, and will consult with the respective chairmen, before taking a position on the proposal,” according to a joint email from House spokesman Larry Berman and Senate spokesman Greg Paré.

Janine Weisman is the editor-in-chief for the Rhode Island Current.

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