After seven years of working to establish a major data center in the Chicago area, Indianapolis attorney Tom Dakich is aiming big at the former State Line Generating Plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Hammond.
"Indiana has some other data centers in South Bend, Columbus and Indianapolis," Dakich told the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce at the new Hammond SportsPlex Wednesday.
"We're not competing with those. We're not competing with Peoria and Louisville. We're trying to build the best urban data center. We want Northwest Indiana to be talked about in the same vein as Atlanta, Miami and Maricopa County, Arizona. We're jumping over the middle segment."
Dakich, a Northwest Indiana native and Andrean graduate who's the brother of radio sports personality and former interim Indiana University basketball coach Dan Dakich, and New York City-based data center mogul Peter Feldman plan to invest at least $40 million in the proposed Digital Crossroads of America Data Center.
It is located at the site of the former coal-fired State Line Generating Plant on the Chicago border. They tout the project as "transformative."
"I think the State Line Generating Plant, which closed in 2012, was the largest polluting plant in the United States, putting out more carcinogens than anyone for 62 years," Dakich said before a standing-room-only crowd of business people.
"For 26 years, it was the largest polluter in the entire world, from something like 1940 to 1966."
The Digital Crossroads of America Data Center on the Lake Michigan lakeshore eventually could grow up to 400,000 square feet and an investment of up to $200 million. The first phase will be 105,000-square-foot computer server storage facility that will consume four megawatts of electricity at first and be cooled off with lake water.
"That's astronomical," Dakich said. "Eventually, we'll get to 10 megawatts."
The developers plan to buy 10 megawatts of power from NIPSCO and build an "alternative energy campus" that would provide supplementary sources of electricity.
"This will eat a lot of power," Dakich said. "We're going to have alternative energy sources, and some of our clients will require us to use alternative energy. We're looking at solar, wind and hydro, though hydro is a little expensive so we're wishy-washy on that."
The data center won't be up and running until September 2019, and no clients are lined up yet. The developers are shooting for huge national users of data like Amazon and Microsoft.
"There are massive amounts of rail by the site with fiber under it," Dakich said.
"There are nine long-haul carriers, big fiber lines within 450 feet of our location. To put that in perspective, all of Indianapolis only has four long-haul carriers. It's like an information highway through the middle of Hammond. But it was like if they built Interstate 65 with no offramps, no 61st Street exit, no Cracker Barrel, no Menards, nothing."
Tapping into those fiber lines at the data center could help spur additional investment in the area. But it won't support a tech incubator as originally planned.
"Tech incubators want to put smart kids in urban places with cool restaurants and pretty girls," he said.
"This location had bandwidth but is kind of an island. The tech incubators want to be in urban cool places like the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago."
So the Digital Crossroads of America Data Center will instead feature a technology education center that likely will cater to everyone from business owners to college and high school students.
Dakich said the specific details haven't been worked out yet, but the goal was for it to have a transformative impact on the Region.