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April 10, 2018

$7-million deal: From old tire dump to data centers

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Remington landowner Bob Springer talks with county Economic Development Director Miles Friedman and Point One Vice President Colin Clish before a supervisors’ work session on the project.
It just kind of hit me: This would be kind of a good spot for a data center.
— Lee District Supervisor Chris Butler
Remington Technology Park
• What: Planned data center complex.

• Where: 234 acres along Lucky Hill Road just northeast of Remington.

• Landowner: Remington Technology Park Ltd. Partnership; principal investor, Alberta, Canada-based Point One Holdings Inc.

• Estimated investment: $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion.

• Planned buildings: 6 data centers, plus an onsite substation to provide electricity.

• Under roof: 1.5 million to 1.8 million square feet square feet, with data center structures ranging from 240,000 to 310,000 square feet each.

• Projected employment: 120 to 180 permanent, full-time jobs; 200 full-time equivalent construction jobs.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Lee District supervisor went looking for an illegal tire dump near Remington and instead found a data center site.

“Any time staff issues a zoning (ordinance) violation, they give a copy to the respective supervisor of the district,” county board Chairman Chris Butler explained.

About a year ago, Mr. Butler got a notice from the Community Development Department that hundreds of tires had been discarded at an undeveloped subdivision property along Lucky Hill Road just northeast of Remington.

“That’s how it started,” the Lee District supervisor said of the surprising sequence of events that led to the supervisors’ March 8 decision to rezone that land for a data center complex. “The whole thing was accidental.”

It could produce the biggest economic development project in county history.

Alberta, Canada-based Point One Holdings Inc. on Tuesday paid Fauquier real estate investors Bob and Bill Springer $7 million for the 234-acre data center property. That equals $29,914 an acre.

If all goes according to plan, Point One later this year hopes to break ground on the $1-billion-plus Remington Technology Park project.

When Mr. Butler, who keeps close tabs on his district, early last year received a copy of the tire dump violation, he decided to investigate.

“I rode over there on a Saturday or Sunday,” recalled the supervisor, whose district includes the Remington area. “I sat at the entrance to the Dominion (electrical) substation” across from the tire dump site.

“I thought, ‘I’m sitting here by the substation. The property’s got some power lines through it overhead. It’s just up the street from the WSA (wastewater treatment plant) for the possibility of gray water for cooling.’ It just kind of hit me: This would be kind of a good spot for a data center.”

The property owner’s name — Remland LLC — meant nothing to him.

But a few weeks later, Mr. Butler went to dinner at Claire’s at The Depot in Old Town Warrenton.

That night, Bob Springer approached him.

The two men knew each other well enough to say hello and make small talk whenever they met.

“So, Bob comes over and hands me this piece of paper and says, ‘Your zoning administrator keeps sending me these love letters. I didn’t dump those tires, but I’m going over there to get them up.’

“So I said, ‘You’re Remland’.”

Mr. Butler wasted no time asking Mr. Springer whether he would “entertain” the idea of selling his land to a data center developer.

That had never crossed his mind, Mr. Springer recalled in an interview Friday.

“It was zoned and platted for residential, single-family homes.”

Mr. Butler had learned about Point One through Monkton, Maryland-based FTS Fiber, which had hoped to construct a fiber optic cable network for Fauquier to extend broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the county.

He arranged last summer for Bob and Bill Springer to meet with Point One and FTS representatives at The New Bridge restaurant in Old Town Warrenton. (Denim & Pearls restaurant eventually took over that space, after The New Bridge closed.)

“They came to town and I introduced them to Bob,” Mr. Butler explained. “They sat down and started talking. I got up and left, and the rest is history — how they worked out their deal.”

The discussion impressed the Springer brothers.

“I think they said: ‘You’ve got all the ingredients to make a great data center’,” Bob Springer said of the tech company representatives. “They went out and looked at (the property) and thought it was an appropriate site.”

The Point One and FTS officials noted the site’s easy access to two nearby power plants, fiber optic cable and the Fauquier Water and Sanitation Authority’s Remington wastewater treatment plant, which could supply gray water to help cool the data centers, he said.

For those and economic development reasons, the supervisors unanimously agreed to rezone the site for a data center.

Rezoning the 234-acre site from residential to “Business Park” for a data center extinguished 199 home lots and saved Fauquier millions of dollars in public service costs required of homes that would get built there.

Point One proposes to construct six data center buildings totaling 1.5 million to 1.8 million square feet.

The company puts its potential investment at $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion.

The buildings, the mechanical systems to support them and site development improvements alone could generate almost $31 million in tax revenue for the county during the first six years, according Fauquier’s Economic Development Department and commissioner of revenue.

Equipment in the buildings also could produce millions in taxes annually for Fauquier.

Point One believes the project will generate 120 to 180 full-time, high-paying permanent positions and up to 200 full-time equivalent construction jobs.

“It’s doesn’t create a ton of jobs,” said Mr. Butler, who focused on economic development issues during his 2015 campaign for the Lee District supervisor seat. “It’s not going to take a ton of commuters off the road. But the revenue generated by the end product will have a huge impact on (county government’s) bottom line.”

The deal also should help the Springers’ bottom line.

Removing “several hundred” tires from the property proved an ordeal, Bob Springer said.

While he used his own tractor, he rented containers to collect the tires, paid county landfill fees to dispose of them and hired a man to help get the job done.

All of that cost $4,000, Mr. Springer estimated.

But, “I guess that was a good investment,” he added, smiling.

The data center site includes about 137 acres the Springers on Tuesday bought from Alexandria-based VCA LL for $1.5 million.

Because the Springers have no experience determining the value of data center real estate, the brothers asked Point One to name a price.

“They came to us with an offer and then we negotiated” and agreed upon $7 million for the site, Bob Springer said.

In June, Point One hopes to seek site plan approval from the county’s community development department, Vice President Colin Clish said.

The company anticipates breaking ground on the project later this year, according to Mr. Clish.

The first of six planned buildings — probably 240,000 square feet — could be completed in “mid- to late-2019,” he said.

Mr. Clish declined to identify potential tenants.

Point One has projected a five- to seven-year build-out for the data center.

Though customer-driven, “we think that’s conservative,” Mr. Clish said of the construction schedule.

Application documents filed with county:

Application SOJ RemTechPark 1stSub by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Application ConceptRenderings RemTechPark 1stSub by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Application ProfferStatement RemTechPark 1stSub by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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