The coworking space joins downtown’s growing reputation as a hub for business technology
Housed in a former DuPont Co. office building and bearing a name and logo saluting the legacy of that iconic gunpowder and chemicals manufacturer, Wilmington’s newest coworking space aims to become the first home for “the next generation of Delaware businesses.”
Dover-born Robert Herrera officially opens The Mill, on the fourth floor of the Nemours Building at 10th and Tatnall streets, on April 1.
The Mill joins the coIN Loft at 605 N. Market St. and 1313 Innovation in Hercules Plaza at 13th and Market. Herrera insists there is a place for all three as the first office space for startups and freelancers who hope to catch the initial entrepreneurial wave in a downtown that seems to be repurposing itself into a hub for small business technology.
Coworking hubs represent the future, “the newest type of space,” says Wilmington real estate consultant David J. Wilk. “Traditional office space is no longer worth the cost unless you’re a corporate user who needs to sardine everyone into place.”
Visitors entering The Mill via the elevator will face a reception area that features a television screen that can be programmed with a welcome message from clients using its conference rooms and a series of shelves that will display patent models from the Hagley Museum’s collection. Conference rooms, a kitchen and a library line the broad main hallway that acts as the spine of the operation. In the middle of the hallway, Herrera has installed a custom-made 28-foot-long table made from American chestnut, a species rendered virtually extinct by blight in the first half of the 20th century. The tabletop, fashioned from wood recovered from a mill in Pennsylvania, will be outfitted with electrical and internet connections for 18 users.
A kegerator and ping pong
The kitchen area will include a full bar, complete with a kegerator, and enough room for a catering crew, adding to The Mill’s appeal as a venue for after-hours tech meetups.
Participants in the Challenge Program, which trains at-risk youth in construction skills, are building four tables for the conference rooms. The tables will also give The Mill’s tenants a chance to unwind, Herrera says, “because they’re conveniently designed to ping-pong table dimensions.”
(At press time, Herrera was hoping Gov. Jack Markell, a notoriously competitive ping pong player, would display his skills at The Mill’s grand opening ceremony.)
With a row of nine glass-walled and windowed offices along its west side (each one equipped with customized Bluetooth speakers concealed in the ceiling tiles), The Mill offers more privacy than coIN Loft, where most users work on tables and desks in an open central area or sink into plush sofas or chairs before firing up their laptops. And, unlike 1313 Innovation, The Mill won’t be promoting itself primarily as a destination for tech-oriented startups.
“Coworking is growing all over the country, and the successful ones don’t focus on any one type of business,” Herrera says. While he would like to have a small law firm set up shop at The Mill, “the market will dictate the types of businesses we get,” he says.
Even so, with credit card banks and corporate law firms now the dominant players in the city’s business scene, Herrera sees significant growth potential here for startups that focus on technology to support the financial and legal sectors.
Monthly fees: $45-$1,200
The founders of Counsl, an Austin, Texas, startup that fits that description, visited Delaware in late January to pitch a mobile app that streamlines the incorporation process. After meeting with key law firms, Markell and other state officials, they expressed their intention to move to Wilmington, and they met with Herrera to discuss leasing office space at The Mill.
Monthly fees at The Mill range from $45 for table-access only to $350 for an individual private office and $1,200 for an office that can accommodate up to four desks and chairs. The Mill will have space for about 55 users, Herrera says. As of early February, five of the nine private offices had been reserved.
All users will have access to the facility’s conference rooms, for fees ranging from free to $30, depending on membership level and demand.
Herrera, 30, studied architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and worked at two architectural firms in New York City, where he helped to design several coworking spaces.
“As a Delaware native, I’m happy to come back and do something here with what I’ve learned,” he says.
True to his own coworking roots, Herrera says he spends some time almost every day at the coIN Loft, and he has hired two small businesses housed there, First Ascent Design and The Barn, to build his website and develop his branding materials. “Everyone at the coIN Loft is my friend,” he says.
“Robert does everything right,” says Mona Parikh, managing director of Start It Up Delaware at the coIN Loft and community engagement liaison for the University of Delaware’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.
The Mill, she says, “will be the most sophisticated, provide the most resources, the most support and more high-end amenities” of any of the area’s coworking spaces.
“If a company or startup team is at a point where $1,200 per month for truly amazing office space is viable, The Mill is where they belong,” she says. “The other price points for desk rental are great as well, but the offices are going to be the true gems.”
“The Mill embraces a totally new lifestyle for businesses,” Herrera says. “This is our community. We’re trying to bring people together.”