The Wex Inc. headquarters building in downtown Portland is nearing completion, with workers putting the finishing touches on amenities such as a spacious rooftop deck and a giant fish tank.

The building, which will house roughly 400 Wex employees, is scheduled for an anticipated final inspection in late January and a planned ribbon-cutting in early March.

The headquarters project, which broke ground in October 2017 at the corner of Hancock and Thames streets across from Portland’s eastern waterfront, represents a significant expansion for Wex. The payment-processing technology firm has about 1,200 employees in South Portland and has been growing rapidly through acquisitions and internal sales growth.

Wex President and CEO Melissa Smith said the new headquarters will bring the company back to its roots.

“Having our new headquarters in Portland is like coming home to where it all started. Our original offices were in Portland,” Smith said. “Fast forward to today, Wex is a $1.5 billion global fin-tech company, one that is leading the digital transformation in payments. We’re excited to be coming home to Portland, a vibrant and creative city that attracts a diverse global workforce.”

In August 2017, the Portland City Council approved a $3.3 million purchase and sale agreement with developer Jonathan Cohen of 0 Hancock Street LLC for the sale of 48,000 square feet of the city-owned Thames Street property. The city issued a request for proposals for the property and received two proposals in response. One was for the Wex project, which the city ultimately favored.

The building is four stories tall and contains about 100,000 square feet of office space and a 5,000-square-foot space for a restaurant on the first floor. Roughly 400 Wex employees will transfer from South Portland to the new headquarters, including its corporate leadership.

Wex has been growing rapidly in recent years. The company reported strong growth in the third quarter, with its revenue up 18 percent and net income up 53 percent from a year earlier.

Wex has about 3,500 employees worldwide. One of just three non-bank publicly held companies in Maine, its shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WEX.

Safet Cobaj, vice president of global real estate at Wex, acknowledged that parking will be an issue in the already congested waterfront area, but he said the company plans to implement a number of initiatives to lessen Wex’s impact on local parking and traffic.

Wex will offer financial incentives to encourage employee ride-sharing and use of public transportation, and it will provide a shuttle service that will take workers to and from a satellite parking lot elsewhere in the city, he said.

“We’re incentivizing our employees to carpool and find alternate means of transportation,” Cobaj said.

The building will feature a number of amenities for workers, including showers and bike lockers, indoor and outdoor dining and break areas, and a rooftop patio for dining, recreation and events.

“This will be completely outfitted with outdoor furniture, wifi, music, whatever people want to do out here,” Cobaj said about the rooftop area.

The headquarters, being built by Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp., incorporates copious amounts of glass paneling for a more open feel. About 90 percent of the office areas will be open floor space with low cubicles, versus about 10 percent of space with discrete offices, Cobaj said. A relatively large percentage of space will be dedicated to unassigned seating and collaborative areas for employees to get together and work as teams, he said.

Another planned feature that Cobaj is particularly proud of is a 10-foot-long fish tank that will be installed in the main employee break room.

“That’s going to be our pride and joy of the building,” he said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

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Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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