May 5, 2017

WEX eyes Portland waterfront for its global headquarters

Courtesy / WEX Inc.
Courtesy / WEX Inc.
An artist's rendering shows what WEX's global headquarters would look like at the proposed location on Portland's east end waterfront across from the Ocean Gateway complex. The building is located at the bottom right corner.

WEX Inc., a South Portland-based fleet card and payment solutions company, is hoping to locate its global headquarters on Portland's east end waterfront on a parcel of city-owned land across from the Ocean Gateway complex.

The first hurdle, company spokeswoman Jessica Roy told Mainebiz this morning, is having the city select the bid of Portland area developer Jonathan Cohen of 0 Hancock Street LLC, who is partnering with WEX on the project, over a competing bid submitted by a partnership formed by Portland-based Atlantic Bayside Development LLC and Jackrabbit LLC.

"We still have a lot of hoops to jump through," Roy said. "We're very excited about this opportunity in downtown Portland, but at the same time we're also considering several other options in the greater Portland area."

Roy said WEX's interest in the parcel — located along Thames Street between Hancock Street on one side and a proposed extension of Mountfort Street on the other side — was spurred by the city's RFP seeking proposals for the city-owned lot.

The Portland Press Herald reported that the city received only two bids by Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline: Cohen's $2.5 million bid and a $3.1 million bid submitted by the Atlantic Bayside/Jackrabbit partnership that is proposing a mixed-use development involving 165,000 square feet of office, residential and retail space, along with a 392-car parking garage.

Roy said Cohen's proposal involves a four-story, 100,000-square-foot building with 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The adjacent parking lot at 100 Fore St. would provide parking for the 450 WEX employees who would initially work at what she described as the "global headquarters" for the $1 billion company. The company foresees having another 200 workers eventually working out of its global headquarters, she added.

"We have seen tremendous growth these last few years, and that brings new opportunities," WEX President and CEO Melissa Smith told Mainebiz. "Part of WEX's culture comes from our roots in Maine, and we remain committed to this area. We are excited about the prospect of expanding and establishing our global headquarters in downtown Portland, in the heart of a vibrant, flourishing area."

Roy said WEX now has 800 employees at its South Portland office. "We're bursting at the seams there," she said, adding that wherever the company ends up siting its global headquarters, it will continue to maintain "a significant presence in South Portland.

"We anticipate that the developer will hear from the City of Portland sometime in June," Roy said.

If Cohen's bid is accepted and the project proceeds as planned, she said, WEX would be occupying its new headquarters sometime in 2019.

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