Land and Expand: Meta, Novva Data Centers, Amazon, Microsoft, NTT

Dec. 12, 2023
Land and Expand is a periodic feature at DCF highlighting recent data center developments, including new sites, land acquisitions and campus expansions.

Land and Expand is a regular feature at Data Center Frontier highlighting the latest data center development news, including new sites, land acquisitions and campus expansions. Here are some of the new and notable developments from hyperscale and colocation data center operators about which we’ve been reading lately.

Meta Holds Promise for El Paso Data Center Development

Earlier this month, the El Paso Times reported that Meta was the entitity behind Wurldwide LLC, a company formed to handle a land acquisition in El Paso and city and county economic development agreements for a prospective $800 million hyperscale data center project. Meta's name was revealed on Dec. 4 when the El Paso City Council and County Comissioners Court met to approve up to $110 million in incentives in the form of tax and property rebates on real estate and equipment over 25 years.

There could potentially be up to five phases of development in the project, each totaling around 800,000 square feet across over 1,000 acres of land. In late November, the City Council began its initial push for an $8.5 million sale of 1,039 acres of city land for the data center, located along Stan Roberts Sr. Avenue in the city's far northeast, west of Highway 54. 

"Meta is a huge name in the IT sector," said Elizabeth Triggs, El Paso's city economic development officer. "This really puts El Paso on the map, and creates a broader technological ecosystem" in the city, Triggs told the City Council.

The magnitude of a possible five-phase campus being built "is like nothing we've ever seen here," Triggs also told the El Paso Times, adding, "It will transform the property tax base by shifting the property tax burden away from residential taxpayers."

Significantly, the reporting by the El Paso Times' Vic Kolenc noted:

El Paso is competing with other cities for the data center, Triggs said after [the City Council] meeting. But the incentives and other actions the City Council approved keep El Paso in the running, she said. And the fact that Meta allowed its name to be released after the incentives were approved is a good sign, she said.

Novva Plans Green Data Center for San Francisco

Novva Data Centers on Nov. 29 announced that it will be expanding to its newest location in San Francisco, California, in what will become the operator's fifth data center. 

The purpose-built data center facilities specialist said its acquisition of a 7.5-acre campus comprised of several buildings located in South San Francisco will include an investment of over $500 million and provide a 28 MW critical load. 

Novva said the data center facility will encompass 182,000 sq. ft. on two floors and a 56,000 SF state-of-the-art office and operations support center. The project's first phase of 9 MW will launch in the summer of 2026.

Advancements in data center design embodied by the company's San Francisco data center will include 28 MW of N+1 critical compute load via Novva’s proprietary electrical delivery system, which contains no centralized infrastructure and is designed especially for resiliency, concurrent maintenance, and distributed redundancy.

The project will also feature water-free air-cooling system with recyclable polypropylene employed for the chilled water loop air supply, as well as a direct-to-chip cooling loop.

Novva added that all of the facility's generators will operate using HVO [hydrotreated vegetable oil] biodiesel fuel, as well as sodium-ion UPS batteries, which present no thermal runaway risk and use no rare earth materials.

Novva’s CEO Wes Swenson commented, “This will be one of the greenest data centers ever created in the area and represents a very rare opportunity for clients to locate intelligent computing in one of the most important cities for software and hardware development in the world.”

Novva presently operates data center campuses in West Jordan, Utah; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Reno, Nevada; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Amazon Adds Austin Data Center

The Austin Business Journal's Justin Sayers reported on Dec. 4 that, more than a year after putting its initial plans on hold, Amazon, a major force in central Texas, wants to add a data center to its project north of Austin, Texas that will primarily involved a last-mile distribution center.

As revealed by Sayers:

" Services LLC is seeking a recommendation from the Round Rock Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 6 to establish zoning for a planned unit development for the site along County Road 172, which is owned by the company and is a former piece of Robinson Ranch. The company in May 2022 paused plans for the project – initially billed as a $250 million distribution center – after acknowledging that it had too much distribution space across its national footprint."

Sayers' report said that, in the project, Amazon seeks to annex and rezone about 149 acres along Austin's County Road 172 and McNeil Road, north of State Highway 45. The approximately 190-acre site owned by Amazon would include space for warehouse and distribution, a data center and an electrical substation. 

Bradley Dushkin, Round Rock's planning and development services director, confirmed to the Austin Business Joural that Amazon restarted the annexation and zoning process, and that the company is on track for City Council consideration on Jan. 11. "He said the 'only notable difference' between the new PUD request and last year's iteration is the proposed addition of the data center on the southern half of the property," added Sayers report.

The report continued:

"Amazon plans to develop a last-mile distribution center on the northern half of the property, which would be part of the first phase of development. [Dushkin] added that Amazon hasn't submitted a site development permit application yet, which is part of the annexation process. He cautioned the data center is speculative 'at this point' because Amazon doesn't have firm plans for the southern half of the property. The planned unit development represents a general idea of what the company like to be permitted in the future."

The Austin Business Journal reported that in November 2021 that a subsidiary tied to Amazon had purchased the land at 2801 County Road 172. "Officials had submitted documents to annex and rezone the land, but the proposal did not go to the city for a public hearing before the company confirmed the plans were on hold," noted Sayers.

Amazon's project would join a trend of new data centers emerging north of Austin, including projects from Dallas-based Skybox Datacenters LLC and its partner Prologis Inc. As further noted by Sayers' reporting, Las Vegas-based Switch Inc. also recently was approved to build a second data center on land previously owned by Dell Technologies in Round Rock. Seattle-based Sabey Data Centers is also reportedly building in Round Rock. 

Microsoft Invests $500M for Hyperscale Expansion in Quebec

In late November, Microsoft announced that, over the next two years, it will invest USD$500 million in expanding its hyperscale cloud computing and AI infrastructure in Quebec, Canada. The investment will also increase the size of Microsoft’s local cloud infrastructure footprint by 750% across Canada, according to a press release.  

Microsoft said that new AI and cybersecurity skilling initiatives concurrent with its digital infrastructure footprint expansion in Quebec will reinforce the province’s "robust innovation economy," while fueling high-value job creation and preparing for the oncoming AI computing surge. 

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Quebec's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said:

“Quebec is at the forefront of global innovation on artificial intelligence, with one of the highest concentrations of deep learning researchers in the world. Our Government is committed to working with the partners, like Microsoft, to ensure that all actors in the Canadian AI ecosystem have access to the resources and computing infrastructure they need to advance the commercialization of AI systems here at home, and to advance AI that provides social and economic benefits to all Canadians."

As cited by the press release, the announcement also coincides with the launch of a report from Ernst & Young LLP (EY) which found that Microsoft and its ecosystem in Quebec, which includes more than 3,200 partners and substantial cloud infrastructure accounts, supports over 57,000 jobs, and contributes more than $6.4 billion annually to Quebec’s GDP.  

“Today’s announcement builds on the extensive investments Microsoft has made in Quebec and is just the latest example of our deep commitment to this province,” said Chris Barry, President of Microsoft Canada.

Barry concluded, “These investments will not only provide Quebec’s private and public sector organizations with more capacity and added resiliency to transform operations but will also enable a trusted and secure foundation to scale solutions faster to market and compete globally, securing Quebec’s future in the digital economy.”  

NTT Global Data Centers Expands Near Chicago's O'Hare Airport

CoStar's Ryan Ori this month this month reported that NTT Global Data Centers has bought a pair of office buildings west of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, paying north of $27 million for the properties, which are near ongoing development projects in Itasca, Illinois.

NTT is expected to demolish the existing buildings at 1200 and 1250 N. Arlington Heights Road in Itasca, Illinois, according to DuPage County property records, adding to an ongoing series of cloud data storage facilities the company is creating within the suburban Hamilton Lakes corporate park.

As further reported by CoStar News:

"The deal by NTT Global Data Centers creates room for future phases of data center construction within Hamilton Lakes, a sprawling campus with office buildings, hotels and other buildings developed in recent decades by local firm Hamilton Partners [...] the firm already has one data center on a nearby site that it bought from Hamilton Partners, and it’s in the process of adding a second one there. That site is part of more than $64 million that NTT has now paid to Hamilton Partners for more than 46 acres in a series of deals between 2017 and late this year, according to county records and CoStar data."

Chicago is one of the top data center markets in the U.S.. Itasca and its neighboring suburbs, particularly Elk Grove Village, are appealing to data center operators due to their ready access to power and fiber-optic connectivity, not to mention state and local tax incentives and the area’s relatively low risk of natural disasters.

Ongoing data center developments near O’Hare Airport include a $1 billion project launched in 2021 by Prime Data Centers in Elk Grove Village, as well as Digital Realty's recapitalization earlier this year of two data centers that valued the Elk Grove Village real estate at $900 million.


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About the Author

Matt Vincent

A B2B technology journalist and editor with more than two decades of experience, Matt Vincent is Editor in Chief of Data Center Frontier.

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