The corner of Lancaster Pike and Centerville Road isn’t exactly the kind of place one would expect to find the new global headquarters of a company that has been a key player in Delaware’s corporate capital status for more than a century.
The hills and winding two-lane roads of northern Delaware evoke a pastoral serenity, the scene broken only intermittently by quiet subdivisions and the occasional strip mall. It’s too easy and delightful to get lost on country roads that harken back to days of covered bridges and stone farmhouses.
It may seem surprising, then, that the brand-new 148,000-square-foot global headquarters of CSC doesn’t violate the natural aesthetic. The 40-acre campus includes a meadow, gardens and walking trails that are open to the community. During most hours of the day, floor-to-ceiling windows reflect mirror-like the traffic of clouds rolling across the sky, an illusion that makes the building seem almost invisible, except for pillars of stone quarried just up the road in Avondale. Sitting on the patio among flower gardens and water fountains, you can’t help but feel that, as much as a building of such size draws attention to itself, it also redirects the gaze to the surrounding natural beauty of the Red Clay Valley.
For CSC Vice President Scott Malfitano, the new headquarters is a dream come true. He guided the project through years of planning, then delivered under budget and ahead of schedule. He knows the place inside and out. Point to any surface—he can tell you the material. And though all of the furniture had yet to arrive and the landscaping still wasn’t completed by move-in day, for Malfitano, this was a job well done.
“We’re really fortunate to be here,” he says. “The most phenomenal thing about working here right now is that we were able to bring everybody together and create that synergy. It’s been a healthy change.”
In an age when companies are tripping over themselves to build ostentatious Silicon Valley-style workplaces that attract and retain top talent, CSC has consolidated most of its Delaware workforce on a campus that is both modern and graceful, and strikes a fine balance between fulfilling the day-to-day needs of employees whose work is increasingly digital and collaborative while embracing the history and landscape of the community it has called home for 118 years.
CSC’s 40-acre campus includes a meadow, gardens and walking trails that are open to the community. Patios and offices offer views of the surrounding Red Clay Valley.//Photo by Joe del Tufo
CSC might not be a household name to the same extent as DuPont, but its impact on the First State is just as significant.
Delaware’s current General Corporation Law, basically the legislative framework that has made the state a corporate destination since 1899, was drafted by Wilmington attorney Josiah P. Marvel. Just a few years earlier, New Jersey passed the most competitive incorporation laws in the nation, so other states scrambled to do the same.
The Delaware General Assembly unanimously approved incorporation laws that were even more competitive than New Jersey’s. As more businesses incorporated in Delaware, Marvel formed the Delaware Charter Guarantee & Trust Company to provide businesses with legal help throughout the incorporation process. Also that year, Christopher Ward co-founded the Delaware Incorporator’s Trust Company. In 1920, the two companies merged to form the Corporation Service Company.
“Delaware’s tininess, which previously had seemed so laughable, was now recognized as its greatest virtue,” The New York Times reported in 1976. “In short order, it emerged as the successor to New Jersey as the leading charterer of the largest industrial corporations—a position it has never relinquished.”
“We’re really proud of our roots and our history,” says CSC President and CEO Rod Ward III, a fourth-generation descendant of the company co-founder. Since taking over as CEO in 2010, Ward has guided the company through a series of acquisitions that have allowed CSC to grow and thrive in an increasingly competitive global economy.
“We wanted to double the value of the company,” he says. “And we defined ‘value’ carefully so that it didn’t just encompass financial metrics but also in terms of the value we were ultimately delivering to our customers,” which includes 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies like Apple, General Electric and Walmart.
As the pace of growth accelerated, CSC doubled its Delaware workforce in just seven years. Unable to house nearly 1,000 employees in its old headquarters, CSC began leasing space around Wilmington. At one point it occupied six locations from Concord Pike to Pike Creek, in addition to its main office just down the road in Little Falls.
“It became very clear to us that we had outgrown our current footprint,” says Ward. “We needed something more substantial for a longer-term solution.”
As it turned out, the solution was in its own backyard. CSC purchased a plot of undeveloped land right across the street from its old building. Construction began in 2015. It finished this summer, to great fanfare.
“This building is unbelievable,” Gov. John Carney said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in June. “When CSC is successful, Delaware is successful. When Delaware is successful, CSC is successful.”
The building’s“inside-out” design focuses on the individual worker, how workers form teams and how teams interact with each other.//Photo by Joe del Tufo
Down to the smallest details, the space is designed to reflect the friendly and collaborative culture of the organization.
“We’re a nice organization,” says Ward, who works behind a sit-stand desk in a glass office with the door open. “I like to say that we’re going to beat our competition, and we’re going to do it with a smile on our face. There’s no reason the culture can’t be nice.”
So how do you design “nice” into a modern workspace?
“The driving philosophy behind the building is what we call ‘inside-out’ design,” says Jeffrey Morgan of Norr Architects. “And what that means is, you focus on the individual worker, how workers form teams, how teams interact with each other and so on, and you design the building starting with the individual worker and scaling up to team, department and so forth. It’s sort of like building an onion from the center.”
That means that employees are no longer tied to their desks, staring at monitors and typing away on keyboards all day. “That’s stressful,” Morgan says. “That’s not collaborative. It creates disengagement and absenteeism, and things that corporate America struggles with today. You want to create a destination: Employees enjoy it, it’s flexible for them, it works for them, and it morphs itself for them.”
The building features collaborative workspaces with smartboards and high-definition video conferencing, enhanced Wi-Fi both in the building and on the grounds, a state-of-the-art fitness center with Bluetooth-enabled equipment, green roofs and patios where employees can catch some sun, automated MechoShades so work stations don’t get too much sun, and even a multilevel cafeteria with a pizza oven. Such perks give “the employee choice in how they work and where they work,” Morgan says.
Or consider the HVAC system. The building features an underfloor air-delivery system, which means that the entire floor is ductwork. Employees can adjust vents at their desks in the same way as they would in their cars. As the air gets warmer, it rises to the ceiling and brings with it dust and germs, which are then sucked out of the building.
“The most healthful air in the building, with an underfloor air-delivery system, is in the first six feet from the floor,” Morgan says. “With an overhead air system it’s completely reversed.” At CSC, the cleanest air in the building is in the space where employees work and breathe. “It’s an investment that forward-thinking companies make in their employees.”
Says Ward, “We like to say that it wasn’t designed to be this fancy building. This building was designed around the people who were going to work in it.”
Thanks to 10-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, natural light penetrates deep into the building.//Photo by Joe del Tufo
Cutting-edge technology certainly enhances the workplace and increases productivity, but so too does natural light. It may seem old-fashioned, but in our increasingly machine-readable society, there’s something refreshing about the integration of the natural and the digital.
“We wanted to bring the outside into the building,” Malfitano says as he gazes upon the meadow from within the atrium.
The boundary between the outside environment and the indoor workspace is repeatedly, and deliberately, broken down. The main entrance is called “the front porch.” Prodema wood and indigenous stone from local quarries soften the edges around steel and glass throughout the building. There’s a stone fireplace in the lobby. Glass walls open onto patios, sundecks and rooftop gardens. Ubiquitous 10-foot floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light to penetrate deep into the building. In the main office spaces on the upper floors, the desks all face the north window and look out upon the foliage. Quite literally, everyone at CSC has a window with panoramic views of the valley.
“I’m a city guy and I work in Wilmington, and I like to see people building in cities, but if you’re going to do it out there, that’s the way to do it,” says Andrew McKnight, executive director of the Challenge Program, a local nonprofit that helps at-risk youth learn how to work with their hands, earn a GED and find employment. “They did a wonderful job.”
The work done by the Challenge Program represents one of the unique ways CSC incorporated the natural beauty of the Brandywine Valley into the design of the building. CSC approached the Challenge Program and its spin-off company, CP Furniture, to find a table for its boardroom.
“They wanted a special log for a special conference table,” says McKnight. “So we called this guy who had some big timbers and asked him if he had any walnut. He said he did and that we should come look. The log he had came from the Hercules golf course (a neighbor on Lancaster Pike). He cut it up at a mill like 18 years ago, and it was still sitting there all sliced up.”
That walnut log is now a 24-foot-long table in the CSC boardroom.
“We’ve never built a table that big, not sure many people have,” McKnight says, chuckling to himself. “To transport it and get it into that conference room was a real show.”
In more ways than one, the conference table reflects CSC’s commitment to its home. As McKnight put it, CSC reached out to him for all the right reasons.
“They weren’t just looking for a table,” he says. “I can’t say enough about how enthusiastic they were to work with us and how eager they were to promote the mission of the program and not just get a nice piece of furniture.”