[caption id="attachment_212716" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Officials cut the ribbon June 29 on Marlette Funding's new headquarters at The Concord development north of Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – The new headquarters for the financial technology company Marlette Funding officially opened Tuesday at The Concord mixed-use development project off U.S. Route 202, marking perhaps the first major office designed for a post-pandemic future.Marlette, developer and operator of the Best Egg consumer-lending platform, signed a long-term lease for 60,000 square feet of built-to-suit Class A office space in the office park located off Silverside Road just days before the COVID-19 pandemic largely shut down business in Delaware.
[caption id="attachment_212715" align="alignright" width="300"] Marlette Funding CEO Jeffrey Meiler said that flexibility will be a selling point for his workforce. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
“When I signed the lease in February last year, I didn’t feel so good come March,” Marlette CEO Jeffrey Meiler said Tuesday with a laugh. “Today, I think it's going to be absolutely strategic for us, and it’s going to be a real catalyst for employees and for the business.”In the weeks after COVID changed workplaces, Meiler worked with landlord Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) to redesign the offices. They lowered seating capacity to half of the fire code limit, created 18 conference rooms and 48 open collaboration spaces, installed numerous touchless features throughout the facility, and installed bipolar ionization to ensure the air circulating in the building is germ-free.The resulting space feels bright and conversational, with a mix of traditional office design mixed with more modern flourishes meant to be seen and hidden. Meiler, who opened the company with just one other partner in 250 square feet of office space off Route 202, marveled at the state-of-the-art space his company now calls home.Since launching in 2014, Marlette Funding has served 70,000 customers and lent $12 billion through its partner bank. That progress only catalyzed during the pandemic, when many homebound users began banking online and seeking to repair their finances. Marlette is currently achieving record levels of loan originations, with monthly loan volume in 2021 increasing almost fourfold, Meiler said.Marlette found success in offering an easy online application process for personal loans, especially for those with troubled credit history who were looking to consolidate debts. In recent weeks it has rolled out its newest product, a credit card aimed at those looking to rehabilitate their credit score.“It has some nice synergies with our personal loan business and those people who recover their credit may eventually down the road want a home improvement or a debt consolidation loan,” Meiler said.That momentum has caused a hiring spree for Marlette, with the company adding more than 100 positions already in 2021 and that total expected to reach 170 by the end of the year, putting the company at more than 400 employees, Meiler said.
[caption id="attachment_212718" align="alignleft" width="300"] Small conversational spaces are frequently found around Marlette's new headquarters. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
The greatest lesson Meiler learned through the pandemic was the need to take care of his employees first and foremost, because they will reward those efforts in turn, he said.“Providing employees flexibility really enabled us to come out on the other side prepared to start running,” he said.It’s that success that has led Meiler to buy into the hybrid work schedule that many employers are debating today.“Flexibility around how and where employees work sits at the core of what we're offering,” he said.In talking with employees, about one third have voluntarily agreed to return to the new offices in July for at least three days a week, Meiler said. The other two-thirds of employees will utilize workspace reservation software to facilitate their fewer days in the office.Meiler isn’t concerned about space going unused though.“We’ll keep hiring until we reach capacity, which will probably come next year,” he said.That’s good news for Marlette’s landlord BPG, which saw the employer as a major anchor to The Concord project.BPG purchased the former Concord Plaza in 2003 and in 2016 launched an extensive mixed-use redevelopment project. The first phase, completed in June 2019, built 166 luxury apartments and high-end retail at The Concord. The second phase will bring additional apartments, retail, and office space, including Marlette’s new headquarters. To date, BPG has invested more than $100 million in renovations at the 45-acre project.Other new tenants at The Concord include PayPal Holdings, The Mill Coworking Space, Platinum Dining Group restaurants Taverna and El Camino Mexican Kitchen, Amstel Barbershop, Solidcore, and Legion Transformation Center.BPG co-founder Chris Buccini recalled meeting with then-newly elected County Executive Matt Meyer and his newly installed land use director, Rich Hall, four years ago when he shared BPG’s plans with the county leaders.
[caption id="attachment_212728" align="alignright" width="300"] Buccini/Pollin Group has transformed the former Concord Square plaza in The Concord's mixed-use redevelopment. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
“We sat in front of the Chuck E. Cheese, and I said, ‘Matt, we're going to knock down these seven buildings and we're going to repurpose Concord Plaza into a modern mixed-use facility,’” Buccini said, noting that it raised some eyebrows.That plan was tested after AstraZeneca left a lease for nearly a quarter of the site’s space, shedding $5 million annually from BPG’s books.“Instead of running for the hills, we dug deep,” Buccini said, noting The Concord is one of the few true mixed-use projects in the state.“It's very rare that the buildings like this get built in Delaware, and they certainly don't get built in the middle of a global pandemic,” he added, crediting Gov. John Carney for keeping the construction industry operating through last year’s restrictions.