(Photo by Holly Quinn)
2019 has been an eventful year, to say the least.
It started with the longest government shutdown in history, and is ending with impeachment hearings. Our own Joe Biden is now a front-runner in the race for Democratic presidential candidate (for better or worse), and millennials and Boomers are in a war for some reason, possibly related to Joe Biden being front-runner in the race for Democratic presidential candidate.
Here in Delaware — especially in Wilmington — a person who hasn’t been here since 2018 might be surprised that there’s a lot that wasn’t here just 12 months ago, from workspaces to eateries to a whole sports complex. New things come to Delaware every year, to be sure, but 2019 saw the launch of some highly impactful places and things.
Here are 10 of them, in no particular order.
Wilmingtonians driving along Route 13 had watched the Field House go up since the summer of 2018, but it wasn’t until January 23, 2019 that it officially launched with its first home game of the Delaware Blue Coats, our own NBA G League team. In April, Cardi B (who is repped by Wilmington’s The Cream Agency) appeared at the Field House for the BYDAWAY Bash, giving it credibility as a party and entertainment venue. We’re still hoping to see esports there in 2020.
A whole farm in Northeast Wilmington? Self-described “compassionate capitalist” Ajit George made it happen, turning an Opportunity Zone warehouse into a vertical hydroponic farm growing greens, herbs and more — and using the venture as a way to offer training and careers to people returning home after incarceration. The first group selected for the training program were announced at a launch event in November.
The long-anticipated food hall — designed and run by Seawall, the company behind Baltimore’s R. House — in the DuPont Building was one of the biggest additions to downtown Wilmington in 2019. Eight food stalls serve up everything from pizza to poké in an open floor plan that suits power lunches, happy hours and pre-theater meals. (Playhouse on Rodney Square is also located in the Dupont Building.)
DECO isn’t the only new game in town for food and drink. Girard & Faire on 9th Street is the brainchild of Robert Herrera (founder of The Mill) and Stitch House co-owner Dan Sheridan. The concept? A bodega-style shop where you can buy both groceries and alcohol, as well as healthy prepared meals. How can you buy groceries and alcohol in the same shop in Delaware? It’s actually two shops back-to-back: Beer, wine and liquor store Girard faces West Girard Street, while food shop Faire faces 9th Street. Look for more grab-and-go produce in 2020.
While we’re on the subject of eateries, Green Box Kitchen, from the same group of entrepreneurs who brought us Wilmington Green Box and its cold-press juices, opened on 4th and Market in October, serving a selection of plant-based sandwiches, salads, bowls and smoothies. The expansion increases Green Box’s commitment to employing local teens: They also launched a design thinking-based onboarding process in partnership with DualSchool and Strive in 2019.
Wilmington got a new coworking space in 2019. WIN Factory, the coworking space run by former CoIN Loft member WIN Factory Wealth League, had its official ribbon cutting on Dec. 3. Located on MLK Boulevard near the train station, it’s a highly collaborative space with a mission to break down barriers for underrepresented entrepreneurs. Members not only get a space to work, but a tight community and access to weekly workshops and group investment projects.
Biotech startups are big in Delaware. Wet lab space is expensive. The Delaware Innovation Space at the Experimental Station launched Lab Pods in September — small, fully-functional wet labs offered at a lower cost, with business incubation included. STEM startups can apply for a First Fund grant that can be used to cover the cost, freeing up more money for research and development.
The Mill, Delaware’s largest coworking space, now had two locations: Its original downtown location (now two floors) in the Nemours Building, and a new North Wilmington location, The Mill Concord near Silverside Road. Robert Herrera turned a 1980s office park building into a modern workspace with a communal work area, dedicated desks, and a floor devoted to private offices. Tenants are moving in this month.
In a similar (but more corporate) vein, Comcast turned a run-of-the-mill Newark office building into a bright and modern call center serving the Mid-Atlantic, with standing desks, living walls, an arcade, its own Starbucks and an outdoor lounge. It’s a far cry from the old-school, dreary New Castle call center it replaces.
Kent County got its first makerspace in 2019 when the Dover Public Library launched one, complete with 3D printers, robotics and workshops — all for free.
The DuPont company seemingly all but dissolved away in Delaware during the lead-up to the 2017 DowDuPont merger. Many of the Buccini Pollin Group acquisition in recent years, including the DuPont Building, the Playhouse and the Nemours Building, had been owned by the DuPont Company, which sold them after the merger.
June 3, 2019 was known as DuPont’s “rebirth day,” the day that DowDuPont was officially no more, and DuPont was to rise again. To be accurate, DuPont in some form, whether it was Chemours or DowDupont, was never completely gone from Delaware, but it’s true — there was technically no DuPont Company in 2018.-30-
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