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Capital One donates former Riverfront office to DSU

Katie Tabeling

WILMINGTON — Almost four years after Capital One moved out of the Riverfront, one of its properties is gaining a new lease on life through a donation to Delaware State University (DSU).

DSU will use the office at 1. S. Orange St. for its graduate, adult and continuing education programs, a small business incubator and a workforce development center. DSU officials will also launch a new partnership with the Warehouse and REACH Riverside to expand its workforce development program. Classes and services are expected to start in September. 

The Riverfront office represents DSU’s second New Castle County facility | PHOTO COURTESY CAPITAL ONE

The six-story, 35,000-square-foot building is valued at $4.7 million. DSU officials expect there is no need for significant renovations, and it can be managed with existing university resources. It is expected that around 20 DSU staff members will work there, and Capital One will be assigning a dedicated recruiter to establish a direct talent pipeline.

“It’s very important for an HBCU [historically Black university or college] to be connected with and serve the communities that look like a HBCU, and I think it’s imperative that we are in a central city with a Black population and a growing Latino population, as well as a place with many aspiring first-year college students,” DSU President Tony Allen told the Delaware Business Times. “This is a grand opportunity that has come to us, and it effectively anchors our presence in Wilmington and the broader metropolitan region.”

Capital One, a Fortune 500 financial corporation and one of the largest banks in America, was a trailblazer in the mass marketing of credit cards after it launched in 1994. The financial giant owned offices on South Orange, Delaware Avenue and 11th Street, and was among a handful of banks and firms that brought 40,000 jobs to the state in the ‘90s.

Come 2017, Capital One consolidated offices to 800 and 802 Delaware Ave. Today, the company has roughly 2,000 employees in the First State. 

Capital One Delaware Market President Joe Westcott envisions this partnership as a way for the bank to strengthen its bond with DSU and accelerate plans to attract and retain talent within HBCUs.

“At Capital One, we’re looking for the best talent and in Delaware, in Wilmington and at DSU, they have great talent,” Westcott told DBT. “This new partnership will allow us to really spearhead our programs, as well as develop relationships with students well before internship time.”

The office will host graduate, adult and continuing education programs, a small business incubator and a workforce development center. | PHOTO COURTESY CAPITAL ONE

This deal was forged through the “famous Delaware way” in a sense — Allen spent many years with MBNA and later Bank of America where he and Westcott crossed paths. But what may have started as a business relationship strengthened through the tumultuous last year, when Capital One became a prime sponsor of COVID-19-related student aid relief.

Two or three months ago, as the bank was looking to find “creative solutions” for the South Orange Street building, Westcott called Allen to see if DSU would be able to fit the bill. Allen replied, “Absolutely.”

Under this partnership, DSU will be able to tap into Capital One’s First Gen Focus, which allows first-generation college students access to virtual workshops and mentorship programs for free. The university will also be able to offer a two-week coding skills program for future data engineering internships in Delaware’s largest city.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki welcomed DSU to his city, noting that Capital One had also once again stepped up to support the private sector once more.

“Wilmington will soon have an even better chance of helping its residents achieve prosperity because a core [DSU] partner will be part of the effort. Through DSU’s and Capital One’s commitment to education and the community, Wilmington’s efforts to change lives forever has just become a lot more energized,” the mayor said in a prepared statement.

In a broader sense, Capital One’s gift symbolizes a continuing commitment to close the wealth gap and support underserved communities. Last fall, the bank announced a $200 million, five-year initiative through investing in diverse communities, affordable housing and workforce development and other initiatives.

“The primary reason we’re doing this is to bring DSU back into the city of Wilmington. But we really do have a chance to enable opportunities across the continuum, from high school kids to grad students continuing education and we’re excited about it,” Westcott said.

The Riverfront office represents DSU’s second New Castle County facility, after it took ownership of a former U.S. Army Reserve building on Kirkwood Highway in 2013. With $5.5 million of New Castle County’s coronavirus relief money, the university opened a molecular diagnostic lab there and has been able to run its own COVID-19 testing. The lab will be expanded to analyze other infectious diseases.

With DSU settling after acquiring the former Wesley College and forging its new DSU-Downtown identity, Allen said that he and his administration are still open to other possibilities and to expand throughout the state of Delaware. With Capital One’s assistance, the university now has a presence in the First State’s two largest cities.

“Sometimes I say it tongue in cheek, but what I want us to be is Delaware’s State University, and that means we need to have a thoughtful footprint in communities up and down the state,” he said. “So we certainly will have some thought, some emphasis on how we grow in Sussex County as well in the future. But we feel very good about where we are at the moment.”

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