Delaware State University is returning to Wilmington – with the help of Capital One.
Capital One is donating the six-story building at One S. Orange St. to the university, marking the return of Delaware’s only historically Black college and university to Wilmington’s city limits for the first time in about 10 years.
The building, which contains about 35,000 square feet, is valued at around $4.7 million, the institutions said in a Thursday morning announcement.
It will initially headquarter the university’s school for graduate, adult, and continuing education students; a new partnership with Wilmington-based Teen Warehouse and its workforce development center; and an incubation hub for micro and small businesses with a focus on minority and women-owned companies.
Capital One stopped using the 146-year-old building in late 2018 as it consolidated its Wilmington workforce to Delaware Avenue. The building later went on the market.
There were some offers made, the company said, but the pandemic largely froze the market.
That’s when Capital One picked up the phone, said Joe Westcott, the Delaware market president. Capital One launched a five-year, $200 million commitment last year to support growth in underserved communities and help close gaps in equity and opportunity.
Offering the school to DSU fit into that mission.
“We made the determination that if we could find the right partner, donating the building to a great use to the city would be a great option to us,” Westcott said.
The company and DSU are also enhancing their recruiting relationship to expand opportunities for students to pursue careers within the Capital One, emphasizing roles in the fields of business analysis, tech development, and product development, according to a press release.
The bank will be assigning a recruiter to work with the university to increase Capital One hiring of its graduates. It will also aid the early talent pipeline by extending access to Capital One programs for freshman and sophomores, including First Gen Focus (for first-generation college students) and the HBCU Tech Mini-Master, a two-week coding skills program to prepare students for STEM-focused internships.
“I’m a city resident,” Westcott said. “I work in the city. We’re really honored to help enable Delaware State to come back to the City of Wilmington.”
DSU President Tony Allen said one of his goals when he took over the school in early 2020 was to expand its footprint in the city. His past experience in the corporate world with Bank of America was helpful, he said, in that he has strong relationships with corporate partners in the city like Capital One.
During his time at Bank of America, Allen was involved in the company donating one of its four downtown buildings to the Longwood Foundation to be used for multiple charter schools.
The Longwood Foundation is one of multiple institutions that gave Delaware State a seven-figure award over the last year, part of a historic round of donations to the university.
DSU raised some $20 million in philanthropic funding during 2020. That’s not including the $20 million donation DSU received last year from MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist and the ex-wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
DSU also just finished the year-long acquisition process of Wesley College and is expanding its footprint in downtown Dover.
Allen, who has an ambitious plan for the school to be home to 10,000 students in 10 years – a goal that would nearly double the current number of students – said this latest development is another opportunity for DSU to grow. After receiving the call from Capital One, university officials toured the space and then agreed to take the building.
Wilmington is home to a large number of DSU graduates who live and work in the city, Allen said. The early talent pipeline created with this latest partnership with Capital One will “open up the doors for more kids who might not be considering college, let alone Delaware State,” he said.
The partnership and location will also better support DSU’s Center for Neighborhood Revitalization and Research and help address structural and economic challenges facing Wilmington, Allen said.
“DSU’s HBCU roots are important to Wilmington because many of our residents are Delaware State University graduates and have contributed significantly to our city’s success,” Wilmington mayor Mike Purzycki said in a statement. “So, the city where HBCU Week was born and nurtured couldn’t be happier about this announcement.”
The building donation also comes at a unique time. There has been a lot of recent focus on the Ignite HBCU Excellence Act. The bipartisan legislation is led by U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., as well as U.S. House Reps. Alma Adams, D-N.C., and French Hill, R-Ark. It would provide federal funding to renovate, repair and modernize campus facilities at HBCUs.
That would both allow DSU some funding to help renovate and modernize the old Wesley College buildings and also help the infrastructure in Wilmington.
Delaware State has no plans to close its other New Castle County location in Marshallton. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer awarded $5.5 million from the Cares Act to help the university build its own molecular diagnostic lab at the Kirkwood Highway facility, a former United States Army Reserve site awarded to the university in 2013.
Working with Testing for America and the county, DSU in six months has lowered the cost for COVID-19 testing. It will now expand the facility to test and analyze other infectious diseases.
DSU is also renovating part of the Kirkwood campus. Once completed, the school will have a presence in northern Delaware that exceeds 100,000 square feet, it said.
“It gives us the ability to have tentacles in literally every part of the state,” Allen said. “When you put together the footprint we now have in downtown Dover and Wilmington, we have more prowess than we had before.”