Impossible not to notice it; impossible to resist.
If you are travelling along the Interstate 95, in all likelihood, once you approach Newark, you will opt for a break at the Biden Welcome Center Travel Plaza.
And you will not be the only one. This place attracts around 5 million visitors every year.
Enjoying a strategic location, just a few minutes from Wilmington, Delaware, the border land between Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Biden Welcome Center is the only area offering a break from the I-95 - North America's busiest motorway.
I Welcome Centers, a US tradition
In the United States, Welcome Centers are a tradition: the first was built in 1935 along Route 12 in New Buffalo, Michigan, but it was to be the first of many. Today, we can talk about a vast network of structures positioned at the entrances to, or in other key points of a region. Complexes offering travellers a warm welcome, services and information.
But Delaware House, as it is known here, is not just this; it is much, much more. A tool of economic policy, a paradigm of modernity, an ecological island, a shopping centre, a tourist information point: operative since 1964, Delaware House has always proved to be a point of reference for all those who, for any reason, find themselves travelling along the I-95.
The turning point
An important role for the whole region, and one that was played uninterruptedly for 45 years, until the announcement came on 3rd September 2008:
“The Welcome Travel Center Plaza will close on Tuesday for restoration works”
the press note used by the Delaware Transport Department to warn customers read. The note then went on to declare that the centre would re-open by the summer and that HMSHost had been chosen as partner to develop the business.
"Rebuilt from the floor up in just 10 months, the Biden Welcome Center is today a "best practice" to be proud of. A radical transformation has made it one of the world's most innovative architectural structures.
Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware
HMSHost set to work, together with the Department for Transport, the Economic Development Office and the Wilmington Convention & Visitor Bureau, to provide the State of Delaware with a structure able to provide travellers with essential services, to increase road safety and offer a first, impressive calling card and window on the attractions the State of Delaware has to offer tourists.
Approximately 35 million dollars were invested. 250 people were involved.
HMSHost dealt with the works on site: in just 10 months, it designed and built a structure able to serve the motorists of the I-95 for the decades to come. An extraordinary result, made possible thanks to the perfect convergence of cross-disciplinary public and private skills.
The opening ceremony
“An exciting change is on its way for Mid-Atlantic travellers”
HMSHost informs the press on the day of the official unveiling of the new Biden Welcome Center.
The date is 18th June 2010 and in the presence of the Governor of the State of Delaware, Jack Markell, the opening ribbon is officially cut.
10 days later, just as announced, it was opened to the public.
43,000 m2 dedicated to travellers
In a car park able to welcome more than 5 million visitors per year and equipped with 50 EV charging stations for trucks, travellers can choose from the various catering services on offer, from the quick service to the café, from refined menus to full-flavoured Mexican dishes or, of course, the ever-present pizza. A convenience store and some retail outlets supplement the food & beverage offer.
All amidst a truly spectacular ambiance: the photographs adorning the walls take the visitors straight into the beauty of Delaware, from its breath-taking beaches to the historic images of Brandywine Valley.
Supporting tourism was one of the declared aims. The Visitor Center, a real info point on the attractions, events and activities Delaware has to offer, does exactly this.
The premises, which have been built in accordance with the standards laid down by the international LEED® Silver (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, also include locally-built and recycled materials. The whole area has been designed to be environmentally-sustainable, from the geothermal system to the possibility to power low co2,emission vehicles, even the toilets that do not use water and the decorative plants that require very little.