Planning Board Reviews Proposed WEX Headquarters on Waterfront

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An Archtect’s Rendering of the Proposed WEX Headquarters on the Portland Waterfront.  To The Right of the Building is a Public Plaza.

The Back Side of the Proposed WEX Building Will not be a “Dead Zone.”

The corner building of the proposed 45,000 sq. ft. glass structure expected to be built for WEX, Inc.,  corporate headquarters on the Portland waterfront will be the focal point of the $15 million project architects told the Portland planning board yesterday afternoon at its first workshop.  The closing for the city-owned property is set for October 1st.

The exterior of the building will be of two kinds of glass, a blue tinted glass and a plain glass, modeled after several structures in Boston.  The entrance to the offices will be on Hancock Street with Bill Bray, a traffic consultant, telling the planning board that “traffic impact on the neighborhood is insignificant.”

Currently, used as a municipal, surface parking lot and for public use,  Jonathan Cohen, d/b/a 0 Hancock Street, LLC., and the applicant, has assured the planning board that the roughly 450 employees will have access to the Ocean Gateway Parking Garage.

City planner Caitlin Cameron said that there are several site plans that for the area that include parking at the Ocean Gateway Garage. Thus, city staff recommended that an accounting of the proposed projects in the area that are expecting to utilize the Garage to remedy parking requirements, be taken to insure it is not over subscribed.  The Garage currently has 720 spaces for rent with no up-to-date tally of how many developers are claiming them as part of their proposals – some of which are in the pipeline.

At past Economic Development Committee meetings, chaired by outgoing councilor David Brennerman, the community has urged the city to use its leverage to get some public benefit from the sale of this city-owned property.  A proposal that Brennerman has ignored.  During the public comment yesterday afternoon, Peaks Island resident Timi Sellers asked why Cohen was not pursuing a LEEDS certification for the building.  Cohen responded that certification adds 10% to the cost of the building and that is why he’s not pursuing it.  Island resident Barbara Carter raised questions about the lack of parking for Island residents and about the oversubscribed parking garage as well that initially drew attention to the issue.  Carter also said it was her understanding that more parking would be constructed to alleviate the problem, but nothing had been forthcoming yet.  Cohen responded that parking will be added, but he was not ready to release that information yet.

Vice chair Sean Dundon, who faciitated the meeting, said that the City does not need LEEDS certification for new construction.  Dundon was ready to move on to a public hearing and vote by the planning board, but others overruled with the request for another workshop citing the need for clarification on the parking issue.