What happens when that big box store that was built several decades ago goes out of business? What about malls or other retail complexes that hit hard economic times and go under? In some communities mall and retail stores are being converted to data centers and they are finding new ways to repurpose these buildings for the benefit of companies and citizens.
The Expansion of Data
As we become more and more dependent on computers, databases, and other technology for our everyday business and personal lives, the volume of data storage is increasing as well. Companies from a wide range of industries have huge data storage needs; for some it makes sense to build their own data centers, but for others the cost and upkeep is just too much. In those situations it’s beneficial to have a colocation space like the ones springing up at former retail centers.
What’s Required for a Data Center?
Data centers are unique from other industrial or office space because they have some very specific requirements. Big box stores and former retail spaces can often meet many of the specifications with expansive floor space that can be retrofitted for server racks. Retail centers that previously housed several different storefronts are now ideal for colocation or shared server sites because different companies can be housed in different areas of the building without the need to build partitions or worry about servers from one company getting mixed up with those from another.
Some of the additional needs for a data center include quality fiber connections, reliable utilities, and dependable heating and cooling systems. Fortunately these retail centers are already have many of these things built in, which can be upgraded or customized for the data center’s needs, but generally won’t require a complete overhaul.
Data Centers Make Good Neighbors
City officials and residents know that the closure of a massive retail complex can often leave buildings and neighborhoods vulnerable—when the stores fail and business move out, it leaves the area economically depressed and can negatively impact the entire surrounding area. When new retail establishments don’t want to lease the space it leaves the door open for data centers. In fact, in many cases the property owners can make more in monthly rent from a data center than a retail establishment (and certainly more than if it were empty), so it’s good for the economy and for the building. Having data centers occupy the space means a reliable tenant, regular income, and tax revenue for the city.
For many communities the choice to have a former retail space renovated as a data center makes a lot of economic sense, which is why the trend will likely continue.