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NORTHLAKE, IL-Ascent Corp. is planning a $1-billion data center on 20 acres at 505 Railroad Dr. The 250,000-square-foot development comes about a year after the company’s completion of a neighboring 707,000-square-foot, $500-million data center for Microsoft on 14 acres at 601 Northwest Ave. Ground is expected to be broken in August, with the single-story building planned to be tenant-ready by year’s end.

“We think there’s a lot of demand out there,” Phil Horstmann, Ascent CEO, tells GlobeSt.com. “Ever since the first dot com downturn, the investment in technology infrastructure and data center space for companies has been lagging behind and never really recovered. Even though the economy is not that great, these projects are the kind that are allowing companies to cut costs and be competitive in these challenging times.”

Known as CH1, Ascent’s first data center was originally planned for around 440,000 square feet, but expanded when Microsoft signed a long-term lease for the entire building. Microsoft’s two-story data center is now owned by NL Properties LLC, who earlier this year retained DTZ Rockwood to sell the facility. “Ever since our first project was absorbed, we’ve still really liked the Chicagoland market, because it’s a huge US market and probably one of the number one markets from a cyber connectivity standpoint and all major east-west traffic goes through Chicago,” Horstmann says.

Ascent acquired the land for the new development about a month and a half ago from CenterPoint Properties. The new data center, dubbed CH2, will be a multi-tenant facility with spaces ranging from 10,000 to 250,000 square feet, but has the capability to expand for the right tenant as CH1 did. “I wouldn’t think the likelihood of something going the way of the first project is that high, but if a tenant wants to add on, for example with a tenant utility building to serve their data center, that can be accommodated and things can change,” Horstmann says.

The data center suites are fully customizable with options of shipping and receiving docks, entrance doors, and branded lobbies. Tenants can also select from a variety of space and operation options, including raised floors or on slab, chilled water or air-side cooling, container-based compute or racks, and the level of power density and energy efficiency to meet corporate standards. Infrastructure options also allow tenants to choose from a basic powered shell and core, to a fully constructed turnkey space.

The property is located near O’Hare, in the northwest Cook County submarket. Average asking lease rates in the area range from $5 to $8 per square foot net, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s Q1 industrial market report. Occupancy in the area is around 89%, according to the research.

“There is a fair amount of inventory available in Chicago, but we’re really catering to fully customizable tenant spaces in which a user can really drive their design and what they’re doing there,” Horstmann says. “They can design how efficient it is so it can meet corporate sustainability goals and initiatives, and the tenant can use their own capital or financing options to fit out their data center. This is the ultimate flexibility and autonomy for users and something which is not really being offered anywhere else.”

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