By Rana Fayez
McConnell Johnson Real Estate announced expansion plans for the Hercules building in downtown Wilmington last month as it celebrated the one-year anniversary of its 1313 Innovation Space.
The Hercules building has been a mainstay of downtown Wilmington, but currently only serves as an office-space building with a food court. The new project will be called 1313 Business Campus.
“This is an investment I think Wilmington will benefit from,” said Governor Jack Markell, who attended the anniversary celebration.
Paul McConnell, one of the firm’s partners, said that 1313 Innovation was just the start.
“1313 Innovation was the first phase. The second is going to be The Hub. Third will be more food services. We built the food court about a year ago. We know we want more food, and we just announced that we would be working with World Café Live,” he said.
The Hub is based in Philadelphia, and provides meeting spaces and services for businesses in three locations. They would open another 15,000 square-foot space in Wilmington.
Ryan Harrington, education coordinator at 1313 Innovation, said the expansion is almost a separate initiative, involving 73,000 square feet between the ground-floor levels and second floor.
The project will be implemented in phases so they can “chip away” for the next couple of years. “We’re going to build a co-working space in the third and fourth phases,” he said.
McConnell also mentioned a bigger space for nonprofits with “long-term” plans. He emphasized it would coexist, not compete, with other efforts. “We’re not going to compete with Start It Up Delaware; we’re actually partnering up with them,” he said. “In a weird way, we may never be done, because we keep adding things that people want. But we will have the base ingredients in place by early 2016.”
A few organizations, such as Hatch House from Bethlehem, Pa., have been eyeing the new project. Hatch House was initially set up as an off-campus housing facility for student entrepreneurs, but is now looking to expand.
The project also has a robust relationship with the Horn Program at University of Delaware, which will also play an instrumental part in providing resources for student entrepreneurs. Digital Vikings will also be a part of the project in tech lead and mobile design solutions for start-up companies in the building.