Former Coal Plant Goes Green with New Data Center

Former Coal Plant Goes Green with New Data Center

Local and state officials, including Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, gather with Indiana NAP officials to celebrate the start of construction on a new data center along Hammond’s shoreline.

When the City of Hammond made its bid for Amazon’s HQ2 facility, many people smirked at the idea of such a high-tech data center in the midst of Indiana’s heavy industrial lakefront. But there’s no doubt Hammond’s case was a good one, and the city demonstrated it had all the amenities and local support necessary for such a facility to prosper here.

Fast forward to today, and it’s happening. Hammond’s bid caught the attention of two individuals, Indianapolis attorney Tom Dakich and New York-based data center developer Peter Feldman, who knew the available property originally marketed to Amazon really would be ideal for a new data center. Now, what was once the former State Line Generating Facility situated just outside of Chicago along Lake Michigan will soon become the new Digital Crossroads of America Data Center. Its objective will be to serve a growing demand for businesses and content distribution providers to lease data center space.

Dakich and Feldman have formed a newly-launched venture called Indiana NAP, which will serve as the development firm for the state-of-the-art, renewable energy campus. Undoubtedly, the company had plenty of options when it came to choosing a location, but they kept finding reasons to turn their attention to Hammond.

The former archway entrance to the location will be kept.

The former generating facility, which closed back in 2012 after operating for 83 years, had everything they needed – proximity to Chicago, ample power, resources to help cool the facility, and more. However, it was one final ingredient that truly led the pair to choose Indiana, and that was the collaborative support of our local, county, and state officials. Apparently, other neighboring states only presented arguments and bureaucracy, whereas Indiana welcomed their endeavor and recognized its potential.

“Indiana gets things done,” Dakich said. “Cleaning up a former coal plant involves tons of effort and regulation, and without Hammond and Mayor McDermott’s support it wouldn’t have been possible. Also, Governor Holcomb knew that if his administration supported technology it would drive innovation in Indiana. This project wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for them.”

Feldman said, “Most people would see this site as a toxic wasteland fit for a zombie movie, but the state, county, city, and power company all believe in us. There’s been unbelievable cooperation, and future customers of this facility will know they’ll get the same support we have.”

Ultimately, the project has the potential to grow into a $200 million investment across three buildings and 400,000 square feet of state-of-the-art space in Hammond. The hope is to attract the attention of major investors, possibly even those found among such giants as Verizon, Netflix, and others.

“This project fits into Hammond’s economic profile perfectly. It could be a major spur for other high-tech growth in our region, and could lead to big things down the road,” said Anne Anderson, director of Hammond’s economic development.

Mayor Thomas M. McDermott said, “State Line was formerly the largest taxpayer in Hammond, and when it closed its absence was felt. When we pitched the site to Amazon, we learned a great deal. Today, we are so proud this data center is coming here. This is the perfect location for this project.”

Because the site involves the restoration of a former industrial site, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is supporting the project through the Industrial Recovery Tax Credit (DINO) program, which provides an incentive to invest in former industrial sites and improve quality of place in Indiana communities.

“This is high-octane jet fuel for our economy. It’s going to be a cool place where people will want to live and work. This is a win for Hammond and for Indiana,” said Governor Holcomb.

Members of the Hasse Construction team. Pictured are (l to r): Billy Hasse, Patty Stovall, Kim O’Halloran, William Hasse, Clint Jolliff, and Fred Armstrong.

Work on the first phase of the project as already begun. The company will initially invest approximately $40 million to construct a 105,000-square-foot facility on approximately 12 acres of the 77-acre site, which will include a data center and shared-space tech incubator. Munster-based Hasse Construction has been chosen to build the project’s first phase.

Fred Armstrong, vice president of Hasse Construction, and Clint Jolliff, project manager for the facility with Hasse, described some of the unique features and challenges of the new building.

“The building structure is going to be precast, which we’ve got lots of experience with, but building a data center is going to be a unique project for us,” said Armstrong. “The site will have a large power need, but we’re located right beside a substation that can provide everything it will require. Lake Michigan winds will be used to cool the site, and engineers are also looking at using water from the lake in cooling systems. We’ll also be capturing the excess heat energy for use in the greenhouse, so none of that energy will be wasted.”

The project also includes plans for a greenhouse to serve Purdue University Northwest that will use waste heat from the servers and equipment. Additionally, it will have other green features like enhanced public spaces with access to the lakefront property and a new bike path built by the developers.

In terms of the challenges the builders might face, Jolliff said they’re paying close attention to the soil conditions present at the site. Given the building’s immediate proximity to the lake, builders will have to contend with a high water table and the site’s overall elevation.

Indiana NAP hopes to have the foundation for the building done before winter and will possibly be opening the facility next July.

Category Features, Tech Lab