Passport to move to Uptown Charlotte

Article originally published on the Charlotte Business Journal on September 8, 2017

Fast-growth software firm to increase footprint by 20,000 square feet with move to uptown

One of Charlotte’s fastest-growing private companies will be on the move later this year, taking more than triple the square footage it currently leases in South End.

Passport Inc., which develops mobile payments software for parking agencies, transit systems, governments and other operators, is leasing 28,000 square feet at First Citizens Bank Plaza, at 128 S. Tryon St. The company currently leases about 8,000 square feet in the historic Textile Mill Supply Company Building on South Mint Street and is “busting at the seams” in that space, according to Kate Haffey, vice president of people operations at Passport.

“We love the space — it’s inviting, warm, creative, with exposed brick and wood … but we’re growing out of it,” Haffey said. “We’re keeping up with marketplace and client demand.”

Passport now has 85 employees and 15 open positions. That’s up from around 52 employees reported in survey results in Charlotte Business Journal‘s “Fast 50” list last year, on which Passport received the top rank. The fintech firm posted revenue growth of nearly 500% between 2013 and 2015.

Haffey said the search for the company’s new office had specific requirements, particularly with retaining the company’s culture and staying close to the urban core — common themes among fast-growth companies in several industries. The company focused its search in South End and uptown.

“In uptown in particular, you’ve got a lot of traditional office spaces,” she said. “The question was whether we could transform it into more of a startup feel.”

Ultimately, the top two floors of First Citizens Bank Plaza provided the most potential for creating a space that reflected the company’s culture and provided adequate space for growth. Passport has appointed Barringer Construction as the general contractor for the upfit and Perkins+Will as the architect.

First Citizens Bank Plaza was acquired earlier this year by The Dilweg Cos., a Durham-based real estate investment firm that typically purchases underperforming office buildings in core markets and repositions them, ultimately driving occupancy and rental rates.

At the time of purchase, First Citizens Bank Plaza was less than 30% leased. Dilweg is investing north of $10 million in capital improvements to the building’s lobby, entrances, common areas and retail spaces.

Passport is expected to move into its uptown headquarters by early December. The company has been in its South End office since mid-2014.

The new office will include a similar open layout as the company’s current space but with more conference rooms, informal collaboration space and technological features.

Perkins+Will said it aimed to create a space that reflected Passport’s clients, a majority of which are urban municipalities. The layout is aimed to reflect those urban settings, with a grid pattern, diagonal “avenues” throughout and a park-like setting in the common areas.

Irene Vogelsong, director of interior design at the local Perkins+Will office, said the firm arrived at the city analogy and design idea after learning about the client’s customers and their cultural identification with urban environments.

Chris Schaaf and Bryan White at JLL represented Passport in the lease transaction. Tom FitzGerald and Barry Fabyan represented the landlord. Alicia Bickett and Rachel Johnson at JLL are the project managers for the upfit.