Earlier this week, the city’s Economic Development Committee voted unanimously (3-0) to approve a proposed sales deal for a portion of the city-owned parking lot on Thames Street consisting of 1.1 acres directly across from Ocean Gateway. The purchase price is $3,300,000.00 and the approval of the city council is expected to come on August 21, 2017. This parcel is part of a larger parcel that is being reserved for future development.
According to Greg Mitchell, Director of the Economic Development Office, an aggressive closing date has been set for October 1, 2017. Occupancy is expected to be in 2019.
Jonathan Cohen, d/b/a O Hancock LLC in partnership with WEX, a payment processing company, was selected as the choice of the Committee to construct a 100,000 sq. ft., 4-story mixed used building to be the company’s world headquarters on the east end of Portland. According to Cohen he is in negotiations with a food service business that would occupy a portion of the 10,000 sq. ft. space on the first floor retail space, but would not name the business. New jobs are expected, but it was not stated how many are anticipated to be new. There will be a roof top deck for the employees.
When Mayor Strimling not a member of the Committee, but who did attend asked Cohen if the building would be LEED certified, city manager Jon Jennings answered for him: “LEED is just a plaque on the wall for which you pay a lot of money.” The Mayor responded that “it’s important to me that we achieve the highest possible environmental standards possible.”
It was also stated that in order to alleviate the parking situation, the proposed park at the Amythest Park would be delayed so that it can be used as a temporary parking area during the construction of the four-story office building.
During the public comment segment, numerous Peaks Island residents expressed concern that no specific spaces were designated for residents which is a problem for them. Randy Shaeffer asked for a specific “distinction” between public parking and Island parking. A family physician who did not want his name used said many of his low-income patients cannot afford to live in Portland. “The sale of public land should have a public benefit attached to it.” he said to the Committee. Jai Kang expressed concern about the future viability of WEX because it is a “dying” company. Bayside resident George Rowe objected to the WEX proposal because it is “joined at the hip with the fossil fuel industry.”
For more background information on this matter, please see post herein dated July 27, 2017.