An Underground Data Center Beneath Chicago?

The operators of an underground parking garage in Chicago are investigating whether to convert part of the facility into a data center. Chicago Loop Parking, which owns a 9,000 space parking facility under Grant Park, has approached local officials about the idea, according to the Sun-Times.

Chicago Loop Parking is said to be working with Morgan Stanley and CB Richard Ellis on development options for the garage, which is lightly used when there are no major events along the waterfront. The proposal is in its early stages, and the investors are exploring other possibilities for the space, such as a movie theater or even a car dealership.

A Modular Opportunity?

The Sun-Times article doesn’t get into the details of the proposal. But one option might be to convert the facility into a modular data center, where containers housing servers and power and cooling infrastructure could be rolled into a secure area of the garage. This approach would reduce the up-front capital required, and allow for gradual deployment of new modules.

Data center space has historically been tight in downtown Chicago, but there are several new projects to add more space. Server Farm Realty has purchased the former Northern Trust building at 840 South Canal street in Chicago, and plans to spend $200 million to convert it into a data center. JRM Technology has also announced plans to overhaul 111  East Cermak and establish it as a data center. In the meantime, there’s a dwindling amount of space available at several existing data center properties, including 725 South Wells, the CoreSite facility on South LaSalle Street, and a limited amount of space at Digital Realty Trust’s data center hub at 350 East Cermak.

Meanwhile, the niche for underground data storage has shown modest growth. These subterranean fortresses have strong appeal for tenants seeking ultra-secure hosting that will survive any eventuality – including a nuclear blast. See The Data Bunker Boomlet for more on this trend.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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