PILSEN — The developer behind a controversial warehouse at a former Little Village coal plant site aims to build a giant data center at the Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen, officials at the company confirmed.
Hilco Development Partners plans to build a 350,000-square-foot data campus on parts of the Fisk Generating Station site located at 1111 W. Cermak Road, Jeremy Grey, Hilco’s director of development, told Block Club Chicago. The development firm is under contract to buy the site from Midwest Generation, a firm owned by NRG Energy.
Earlier this month, before news broke that he secretly wore a wire as part of the investigation into Ald. Ed Burke (14th), Ald. Danny Solis (25th) confirmed Hilco had purchased the site.
Under the proposal, Hilco aims to construct two multi-story buildings — a 103,000-square-foot building on the north side of the property and a 247,000-square-foot building on the south side — that will house a large fiber-optic network facility, Grey said.
Data centers like the one Hilco aims to build are used to house computer systems and equipment and storage for telecommunication companies.
The proposed project would include office space, but the building would primarily house data center equipment, Grey said, calling the Pilsen site a “premier location” for the data center, pointing to surrounding fiber infrastructure.
Grey said the overall design would be “sustainable with extensive landscape” and would accommodate the city’s proposed Paseo trail.
Hilco Partners has presented plans for the the site to the city’s Department of Planning and Development on Jan. 9, and filed an application for a Planned Development on Jan. 23, Grey said.
Hilco officials have met with the Pilsen Land Use Committee and had plans to meet with the 18th Street Development Corporation, and would soon set up meetings to introduce the project to residents, Grey said.
The company does not plan to request any tax-increment financing (TIF) dollars to fund the project, Grey said.
The site currently is zoned for industrial use and is surrounded by barge activity, electric infrastructure, a truck terminal Hilco would need a zoning change to build the proposed facility.
Under the deal with NRG Energy, Midwest Generation would continue to own and operate the peaker plants at the Fisk site, said David Knox, a spokesman for NRG Energy.
“The peakers at the Fisk site serve as an important reliability role and will not be impacted by site redevelopment,” Knox said.
In December, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hosted a community meeting to consider approving a draft permit which, if approved, would allow for the diesel peaking turbines at Fisk to be used during periods of high demands.
The agency is currently reviewing community feedback before making a decision on the permits, said Brad Frost, manager of community relations for the IEPA.
Hilco CEO Roberto Perez said the peaker turbines portion of the property were not for sale, and are not part of the Planned Development application submitted.
Hilco officials said converting the Pilsen property into a data center would bring “minimal traffic” and “good jobs” to the area.
On a larger scale, officials aim to “remediate the land, demolish the facility and put it back into commerce,” Perez said.
“We think this is the best path,” he said.
In Little Village, Hilco has been given the green light from City Council to build a one-million square foot distribution center at the former Crawford Coal Power Plant, which has been opposed by the Little Village Environmental Justice Center and some residents because of the more than 100 diesel truck it would bring to the neighborhood.
Officials said Hilco is currently conducting a traffic impact study around the Fisk site.
“[The data center] is a completely different project and has negligible truck traffic if any,” Perez said.
The Fisk Generating Station’s opened in 1903, and shut down its coal-burning operations in 2012, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The closing was a result of a community-led effort that called for the closing for the Pilsen coal plant and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village.
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