(El Paso Times) -- El Paso city officials want to sell 1,039 acres of vacant land in Northeast El Paso for a large data center. But they aren't talking about the proposal.
The proposed project has an estimated cost of $800 million, including paying the city $8.5 million for the land, according to city information provided to the El Paso City Council, which Tuesday gave initial approval to selling the land.
The city set the land aside years ago as a possible site for a large manufacturing plant. Instead, a hyperscale data processing center is to go there, city information shows.
The vast expanse of desert land is located along a little-used portion of Stan Roberts Sr. Avenue, and just off of U.S. Highway 54 – not far from the New Mexico state line.
El Paso Electric's Newman power plant is located about five miles from the property's western boundary near U.S. Highway 54. El Paso billionaire Paul Foster’s new Campo del Sol housing development is a few miles south of the property.
On Tuesday, the City Council, without comments, gave initial approval to an ordinance to authorize sale of the property. A public hearing will be held at a special Dec. 4 council meeting before it can give final approval to the ordinance. The council also is to vote Dec. 5 on an agreement with Wurldwide LLC to provide tax abatements for the project, a city official said.
El Paso County Commissioners Court also is scheduled to vote on a tax-abatement agreement for the project at a special meeting Dec. 4.
Wurldwide, spelled with a "u," is the buyer. However, that's likely a company established for the purpose of buying the land. It registered in January 2022 as a corporation in Delaware, a state where many corporations register for various reasons but are located elsewhere. The company that will operate the El Paso center will likely be a different, better-known enterprise.
City officials declined to provide details about the proposed data center, or information about Wurldwide.
Data centers house computers and servers to process data for customers. Hyperscale data centers are large and can quickly scale up or down to meet demand, according to Vertiv, a global digital infrastructure provider. They often are multi-building complexes, but don't employ large workforces, according to Area Development magazine.
The number of hyperscale data centers has quickly grown in recent years, with 700 worldwide at the end of 2021, according to Statista, an online statistics provider.
The proposed city ordinance states that the hyperscale data center “will contribute to the creation and growth of a regional information and data value chain, creating opportunities in highly related sectors and technologies,” including advanced manufacturing and clean energy.
The council on Tuesday also quickly approved creating a reinvestment zone for the large tract of land to make it eligible for tax abatement agreements.
Elizabeth Triggs, the city economic development director, who asked the council to approve the zone, and council members did not mention that the zone is for the same land proposed for the data center.
The land also is to be rezoned from heavy manufacturing to commercial to allow the data center to locate there. A public hearing on the rezoning is to be held at City Council's regular meeting Dec. 5 . City Council in 2021 approved rezoning the property from agriculture to heavy manufacturing as city officials renewed efforts to recruit a company to locate there. It gave preliminary approval to the new rezoning change at its Nov. 7 meeting.
Wurldwide paid a deposit of $336,600 to the city in April 2022 for a temporary right of entry to the land, the proposed sale contract shows. That money will be used as a deposit for the sale contract and allow the company to have a property inspection period ending April 18, 2024. The company could terminate the sale contract for any reason during the inspection time.