Is a giant Amazon facility coming to Rhode Island? Here’s what we know.


In this Oct. 1, 2020 file photo, an Amazon logo appears on an Amazon delivery van, in Boston. Amazon opened an online pharmacy Tuesday, Nov. 17 giving shoppers the chance to buy their medication and order refills on their phones and computers and have it delivered to their doorsteps in a couple of days. Steven Senne / AP, File

Amazon won’t come out and say it, but it definitely looks like the retail giant is planning on building a huge shipping facility in Rhode Island.

Here’s what we know for sure: The town of Johnston’s planning board will soon discuss a proposal to build a six-story distribution facility with a footprint of around 823,522 square feet, a total area of 3,864,972 square feet, and plenty of robotic sorting equipment. The ground floor is for shipping, receiving, and labeling of goods, whereas the floors above would be dedicated storage and sorting space.

While neither town officials nor Amazon representatives have confirmed suspicions of the company’s expansion, there’s plenty of convincing evidence that it may soon start operations in the town just west of Providence.


First of all, the applicant behind the proposal is Bluewater Property Group. That particular company also handled a proposal for an Amazon facility New York’s Hudson Valley last year.

The size of the proposed Rhode Island facility also closely matches Amazon’s sortable fulfilment centers, which use robots to sort smaller goods like books and electronics. It’s also remarkably similar to a 3.8 million square foot Amazon facility set to open in North Andover. That building will be a sortable center with a footprint of 855,000 square feet, according to MWPVL International, a supply chain consulting firm.

And then there’s the economic perspective: Johnston would be a sensible choice for Amazon in its ever-expanding quest for shorter delivery times and total retail dominance. While Rhode Island is close to the enormous Fall River center just across the border, that particular facility is a non-sortable location — in other words, it deals with bulkier products like furniture which can’t be handled by robotic equipment. The closest Amazon centers tailored for small goods are the two in central Connecticut and the planned North Andover facility near New Hampshire, so another one in Johnston would plug a small gap in the Ocean State.

Finally, if all that is not convincing enough, check with the folks on the ground. Though it’s not explicitly corroborated elsewhere, last month multiple sources told GoLocalProv, a local Rhode Island news site, that Amazon was seeking a facility in Johnston.


The prospect of a new facility from Amazon, which historically employs unsafe and unethical practices with its warehouse employees, was disparaged by at least one local resident. Homes near the proposed site received anonymous flyers warning that an Amazon facility would increase traffic, decrease property values, and destroy a large area of forest, WPRI reported.

“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,” Johnston mayor Joe Polisena told WPRI.

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