A few years ago, Capital One made plans to consolidate its employees in its four downtown locations into one building at 802 Delaware Ave. That building opened, after some innovative renovations, in April 2019.
CapOne, which first came to Wilmington when it acquired ING Direct in 2011, had leased the historic Pennsylvania Railroad Building next to the train station that is now CSC Station and two other spaces. They also owned a six-story building at 1 S. Orange St. next door to the Riverfront Market facing CSC Station and Tubman-Garrett Park. That building was up for sale in 2019, But ultimately, it was decided that the bank would keep it and find a creative use for it.
Last week, it was announced that CapOne had donated 1. S. Orange St. to Delaware State University. The HBCU has a main campus in Dover, as well as additional campuses in Georgetown and on Kirkwood Highway in suburban Wilmington.
“There was a real desire to do something big with Delaware State,” Joe Westcott, VP and Delaware Market president at Capital One who is closely involved with the partnership, told Technical.ly. “We’d been looking to expand an existing partnership with them for some time now. The conversation really only started a few months ago, and it’s moved quickly. There’s been a lot of great alignment between what Delaware State wants to do and what we care about at Capital One.”
What Delaware State wants to do is make its programs, including graduate studies, a startup incubation space and a floor devoted to The Warehouse’s teen-centered RISE program, accessible and impactful.
Delaware State’s director of news services, Carlos Holmes, sees the expansion in Wilmington as an investment in the community that will allow the university to increase its offerings and prominence.
“We have a molecular diagnostics lab at our Kirkwood Highway campus,” he said. It was, in fact, the first in New Castle County and allowed for in-state COVID-19 test analysis at a time when the tests otherwise had to be sent to California. The expansion of Delaware State into the city of Wilmington will continue to bring innovation upstate, while offering more opportunities for Black and brown residents, per Holmes.
Historically, the banking industry that has been a major force in Wilmington since the 1980s has not always had a symbiotic relationship with the city’s communities of color, which make up the majority in the city proper. Those high-paying bank jobs went to suburban commuters, not city residents, for the most part. There just wasn’t an urban neighborhood-to-career pipeline.
That has been starting to change, and HBCUs have been a part of that. For CapOne, the 1 S. Orange St. donation is a partnership that is in line with its focus on HBCU recruitment.
“We are looking to build on a great set of talent and continue to grow and diversify our teams, so this recruiting relationship that we’re going to have with Delaware State is going to be important for us as a business,” Westcott said. “Helping Delaware State come back with a meaningful presence in the city was just added up to a situation where we felt like this was the right answer. You’ve got this continuum of social and economic mobility, and with [Delaware State President] Tony Allen’s thought leadership, these public and private partnerships can make sense for the community, for the university, and it connects a lot of dots for us as an organization.”-30-