Small-business incubator at ex-corporate site

Wilmington's Hercules Plaza, with its blue-glass mirror windows reflecting the rocky Brandywine below, its rolling-globe outdoor fountains and its open, sunlit indoor space, was built to be the indivisible single-occupant world headquarters of a multinational DuPont Co. spin-off, whose creation followed a long-ago US Government antitrust suit and a du Pont family factional fight.

But Hercules Inc. vanished in 2008, absorbed by Kentucky-based Ashland Oil, which sold its suburban golf course and decided it didn't need all that indoor office space either.

What to do? Locally based McConnell Johnson Real Estate says it's begun a five-month project to upgrade the plaza's electrical-telecom systems and turn the central atrium into "an eclectic gallery" featuring a small-business "incubator," a "New York style cafe and lounge," a fitness center and an as-yet uncontracted "sophisticated" business-lunch and elegant-dinner restaurant.

“We have chosen to retain the Hercules name as a tribute to Hercules’ contributions to the regional economy for nearly a century and as a symbol of strength as we move into the future,” said owner Paul McConnell in a statement.

Hercules Plaza tenants include the publishing Newhouse family's Condé Nast magazines, which enjoys tax benefits for operating its financial offices in low-tax Delaware instead of at its Manhattan editorial offices; Ashland, which continues to house some former Hercules chemical offices here; and the Wilmington law firm Potter Anderson and Corroon.