Lincoln, Neb., OKs Project to Turn Farmland into Data Center

The Lincoln City Council has annexed nearly 600 acres of farmland to be used as the future home of a massive data center. Earlier attempts to get the $600 million project off the ground stalled.

by Riley Johnson, Lincoln Journal Star / September 10, 2019

(TNS) — The Lincoln City Council on Monday annexed more than 570 acres north of Interstate 80 into the city and approved the zoning changes to ready the transformation of farmland into a massive data center.

The data center would occupy a campus of up to 2 million square feet west of 56th Street and south of Bluff Road and would be run by a company that still hasn't been publicly identified.

Officials with Project Agate, as it's called, told the state the business may invest as much as $600 million in the data center, which may employ up to 1,000 people within 20 years.

"This is the type of project that we as a city very often hope for or plan for but don't always get," County-City Planning Director David Cary said at a hearing last month.

City action after previous development plans stalled helped ready the site for the massive data center project to get off the ground, Cary said.

Developing the swath of cropland north of the interstate had long been considered.

Since the late 1990s, that area had been in Lincoln Public Schools' plans for a future school. In 2005, developers began talks with city officials about designating the site as a major commercial and industrial center.

Bearing the cost of hooking up the land to city utilities during a recession proved to be "one of the weaknesses of it," Cary told the City Council.

While the land sat vacant, the city made utility improvements to the area to ready it for development, he said.he company building the massive data center won't seek any tax-increment financing, a tool that caps a development's property value and diverts the taxes on the improved land to pay for certain improvements deemed in public interest.

The annexation and zoning sign-offs for the project were approved without comment on a 5-0 vote. Councilman Richard Meginnis and Councilwoman Jane Raybould didn't attend Monday's meeting.

After the council meeting Monday, an Agate LLC official who attended the meeting said there was not a timeline for the announcement of further details on the data center.

©2019 Lincoln Journal Star, Neb. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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