Portland-based Wex Inc. is shelving plans to expand into a $50 million office building at The Downs in Scarborough, citing changing work habits and less need for office space in the post-pandemic world.

The payment-processing technology company said Thursday that it made the decision to reflect a “changing work environment” in which many of its roughly 1,200 employees in Maine are working from home and are expected to continue to do so, or adopt a hybrid work routine with time split between conventional and home offices.

Earlier this year, Wex said that it expected most employees to return to its offices – it has two buildings in South Portland and two more on the Portland waterfront – by this summer. That was later shifted to the end of this year, company spokesman Rob Gould said.

The company is still figuring out how many employees will work full-time in the office, how many will adopt a hybrid schedule and how many will continue to work full time from home, Gould added.

Employees are being told to coordinate with their managers to figure out where they will work in the future, he said. A handful are back at work in the company’s buildings, Gould said, but most aren’t working in those offices full time.

Those changes in working locations meant the company no longer had an immediate need for more office space, said Safet Cobaj, Wex’s vice president for global real estate.

Cobaj said the company is taking “a pause to make a more informed decision about what new office spaces should look like in the future.”

The company had anticipated moving 1,000 employees to the new Scarborough site in about a year.

Wex has added considerable space in recent years, moving its headquarters to the new waterfront building. It also leases a large building on Fore Street in Portland that it shares with Northeastern University’s Roux Institute, which will offer advanced degrees in high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

That building officially opened this year, and Wex said it will continue to use the two buildings it leases in South Portland.

“We remain excited and steadfast to provide employees the office structure that will best fit the future,” Cobaj said.

Wex has 5,435 full-time employees worldwide, with 1,216 of them in Maine.

One of the developers of The Downs said interest in the mixed-use development remains strong, despite Wex’s decision.

“We understand that Wex’s post-pandemic office needs have changed, and fortunately their decision doesn’t impact our overall plans for The Downs,”  said Peter Michaud, managing partner of the development.

Michaud said interest in the project “throughout the pandemic has been very steady and strong.”


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