August 22, 2017

Portland council approves sale of site for WEX office building

Courtesy / NAI The Dunham Group
Courtesy / NAI The Dunham Group
An architect's rendering shows both an aerial view and closeup of the four-story 100,000-square-foot building that developer Jonathan Cohen plans to build on Portland's eastern waterfront to serve as WEX Inc.'s global headquarters. The project passed a significant hurdle Monday when Portland's City Council unanimously approved the sale of city-owned land on Thames Street to Cohen for $3.3 million.

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to sell a parcel of city-owned land on the eastern waterfront to a developer who is partnering with South Portland-based payment solutions company WEX Inc. to build its global headquarters there.

As recommended by the city's Economic Development Committee, Jonathan Cohen of 0 Hancock Street LLC will pay $3.3 million for the 1.1-acre lot on Thames Street across from the city's Ocean Gateway Terminal.

According to a news release from NAI The Dunham Group, which is representing both the developer and WEX in the project, Cohen has an agreement to lease a new 100,000-square-foot glass headquarters building to WEX.

Cohen is in the early permitting stages for the project with the city. Pending final permits, building completion is scheduled for early 2019.

Tom Moulton and Katie Millett of NAI The Dunham Group are representing the developer and Charlie Craig of NAI The Dunham Group is representing WEX.

The Portland Press Herald reported that Portland's Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said the sale will close before Oct. 1.

WEX's plans take shape

WEX's interest in locating its global headquarters on Portland's eastern waterfront is spurred by its tremendous growth in recent years and a "bursting at the seams" situation for its 800 employees at the company's current South Portland location. Initial plans for the Portland headquarters call for 450 WEX employees to work there.

Cohen's proposal involves a four-story building with 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space. Additionally, between 450 and 550 new surface and structured parking spaces, located within 750 feet of the Thames Street site, will be constructed to accommodate WEX's needs and increased public parking needs in Portland's East End.

In an earlier interview with Mainebiz, WEX President and CEO Melissa Smith said the company plans to "maintain a significant presence in South Portland" but is excited by the opportunity to locate its global headquarters in Portland.

"We have seen tremendous growth these last few years, and that brings new opportunities," she said. "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."

Craig, NAI The Dunham Group's representative for WEX, sees benefits for both the company and the city.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for WEX to occupy a state-of-the-art headquarters along the Portland waterfront," he said. "This project has many benefits to the city, including real estate tax revenues, residential, retail and hotel spending in downtown Portland, and a landmark global headquarters office building that will act as a catalyst for future development in the area. It will also enhance Portland's reputation as a vibrant, tech-friendly city. A shared vision of this potential was critical in bringing this project to fruition."

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