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Delaware’s Biggest City Has New Food Hall To Welcome Back Returning Workers

A rendering of the food hall's outdoor area.

Many of the more than 40,000 people employed in Wilmington, Delaware, have spent much of the last two years working from home. 

Now, as thousands of workers have returned to the office for at least a few days a week, Wilmington employers are taking steps to ease the transition. These efforts range from office redesigns that spurn cubicles to perks such as bicycle storage and study spaces for employees’ children.

Like employers everywhere, Wilmington companies are relying on amenities to attract and retain employees, and they are soon getting a major one that will be available to anyone in the city’s central business district: the 12K SF The Chancery Market Food Hall & Bar at 1313 North Market St. 

The new food hall will allow downtown workers and visitors to sample the fare of local restaurateurs as well as that of big-name chefs who are entering the Delaware market for the first time. About a dozen restaurants will be represented.

“We really wanted to up the amenity package and the tenant experience,” said Scott Johnson, a partner at developer MJRE. “We learned a lot during Covid, and we changed the hall’s design a fair amount to reflect new realities.”

Chief among those changes was to make sure The Chancery Market balances plenty of open green space with amenities that encourage the in-person social interactions many people say they missed during the pandemic.

“We’ve added an indoor/outdoor bar and 10K SF of garden space on the outside of the building for people to go,” he said, noting that a large outdoor fireplace, a variety of seating options and propertywide WiFi will add to their experience. 

Johnson has been active in Delaware CRE for more than 30 years. During that time, he’s seen many buildings go up in and around Wilmington and witnessed several changes of administration at the state and local levels.

But he said one thing has remained consistent throughout his career in the state: a bipartisan spirit of teamwork.

“In the mid-’80s, when I had a whole different group of politicians to deal with, they were very open, very much wanting to help figure out how they can help you do transactions and do business in Delaware,” he said. “And that's pretty much how it’s been through the years and the different administrations, including today. For the most part, if we need help in resolving something or trying to engage with someone, they're always willing to listen and help where they can. That’s been a consistent theme here.”

Johnson said he’s received the same level of support in his firm’s efforts to bring the $5M Chancery Market to fruition. 

Overseeing it all is award-winning restaurateur Akhtar Nawab and his company, Hospitality HQ. The Brooklyn-based firm will handle the day-to-day management and operations of The Chancery Market, which will be open seven days a week to serve workers from nearby businesses, Wilmington residents and city visitors. 

“We’re thrilled to bring such an exciting new array of dining offerings and culinary experiences to the Wilmington community,” Nawab said in a statement. “Our goal is for our kitchens to serve as a springboard for talented, local vendors looking to take their businesses to the next level and to create a thriving communal space where visitors feel welcome.”

The Chancery Market, so-named because of its proximity to the Delaware Court of Chancery and the many law firms that call the 1313 North Market building home, is getting an important assist from Delaware nonprofit groups. 

The Challenge Program, which provides job training for at-risk youth, is manufacturing the furniture for the new food hall, including seating for several hundred people.

“They're producing some really neat interior and exterior furniture for us,” Johnson said. “This is a program to give young people skills to go on to a construction job or really any kind of blue-collar job, which in Wilmington is very needed.”

Another group, the Delaware Center for Horticulture, designed and landscaped the gardens and green spaces around the food hall with native plants. The site also will incorporate art created by local artists, and Johnson said he is in discussions with a local theater group to create a 125-seat performance space for them at 1313 North Market. 

“A big part of our effort is engaging the community as much as we can,” Johnson said.

MJRE is targeting this fall for the official opening of The Chancery Market. Johnson said he is excited about his company contributing to the vibrancy of downtown Wilmington as well as continuing to make 1313 North Market — and a neighboring building his company also owns, 1201 North Market — attractive for today’s office tenants. He noted that both buildings are certified WiredScore Platinum for their digital connectivity and smart technologies.

“We think that the improvements and additions we are making will help our tenants and others not only want to come to work, but be happier and more productive here,” he said. 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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