Illinois Provides Funding For State’s First Black-Led Data Center Project

June 26, 2024 BISNOW | Jon Banister, Deputy East Coast Editor 

The Chicagoland data center market has surged with new development in recent years, but Illinois leaders say no new projects in the state have been built by a Black developer. 

That could soon change with a five-story project on Chicago’s West Side from Metro Edge Development Partners CEO Craig Huffman. The developer secured $3.4M in state funding for the project and plans to break ground by early next year, state Sen. Lakesia Collins announced Tuesday.

Courtesy of Metro Edge Development Partners

Craig Huffman, CEO of Metro Edge Development Partners, is the first Black developer to lead a data center project in Illinois.

Collins also introduced a bill to help minority business owners develop data centers and create jobs in underserved areas, she said in a release. 

“With this grant funding we can keep Illinois technology data within our state, instead of sending it off to another state or another country, and gain millions in tax revenue that can go back to support the Black and Brown neighborhoods, businesses and youth,” Collins said in a statement. 

Huffman, who previously co-founded real estate investment firms Ascendance Partners and Cradle Real Estate Group, founded Metro Edge in 2020 with the goal of building data centers in underserved urban areas, Data Center Dynamics reported.

The West Side project appears to be his first. He filed plans for it in 2022 and received approval last year from the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. 

The 185K SF project, branded as IMD1, would be built on a 2-acre site in the Illinois Medical District at the intersection of West 14th Street and South Damen Avenue. The vertically stacked data center would reach 145 feet tall and offer 20 megawatts of power across its five floors. 

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Courtesy of Metro Edge Development Partners | A rendering of Metro Edge’s five-story data center project planned in Chicago.

The description of the project on Metro Edge’s website says that by locating on Chicago’s West Side, it will provide one of the lowest-latency options for nearby users like hospitals and educational institutions. It also says the neighborhood is “an underserved community that can benefit considerably” from this kind of technology investment. 

“We want to thank Senator Collins for realizing that this project is a big win for the West Side of Chicago,” Huffman said in the senator’s release. “Each new data center creates administrative, union construction, and operational jobs. The capital required to construct the buildings injects millions of dollars into local economies, and with managed growth, this real estate type alleviates traditional burdens on resources like schools and other city services.”

Chicago had the third-largest data center market in the country at the end of last year, behind Northern Virginia and Dallas, according to CBRE. The Chicagoland area has seen 13 data center projects generate $4.2B in investment since 2020, Collins’ release said. But much of that development has been in the suburbs. 

CyrusOne last month submitted plans for a pair of new data centers in Aurora, where it already owns two facilities and another development team is planning a three-building campus. The area near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has also seen data center development, as have the suburban communities of Hoffman Estates, Elk Grove Village and Mount Prospect

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