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Upstate New York Planning Board Converts Sears to Data Center

The St. Lawrence County, N.Y., Planning Board has given site plan approval for a new proposal that is slated to convert the former Sears store in the St. Lawrence Centre mall to a data center.

by Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times / August 19, 2020
Data center. (Shutterstock) Shutterstock

(TNS) — The St. Lawrence County, N.Y., Planning Board has given site plan approval for a proposal to convert the former Sears store in the St. Lawrence Centre mall to a data center.

The board returned the request to the town of Massena Planning Board for action with one comment — to ensure there’s enough power on site to handle the operation. The Massena Planning Board meets on Thursday.

St. Lawrence County Planning Office Deputy Director Jason Pfotenhauer said the proposal is from Tareo Capital Management LP in New York City.

“We’ve heard a lot about data centers in the past. I don’t know for sure if this is a Bitcoin mining data center or a data processing data center. The details are not revealed by the applicant in what they’re going to use it for other than they call it a new electronic data processing center,” he told members of the county’s Planning Board.

He said there would be no alterations to the exterior of the space and partitions added to the inside.

“There’s no impact from an exterior standpoint. It does involve site plan approval, but there’s not much site plan to it,” Mr. Pfotenhauer said.

He said, since any actions in the proposal were “really minimal,” the Planning Office was proposing sending it back to the Massena Planning Board for local action.

While they voted to return it to the Massena Planning Board, some members questioned if suitable power was available so it wouldn’t drain power from other businesses in the mall.

Mr. Pfotenhauer said Bitcoin operations use larger amounts of power, but he suggested there might be enough power for the new data center.

“I don’t know if what they’re going to do is going to be problematic,” he said.

Power concerns arose when Coinmint, a cryptocurrency mining operation, moved its operation to the former Alcoa East plant to produce Bitcoins and other digital currencies.

In 2018, the New York Public Service Commission approved electricity rates for the Massena Electric Department that they said would allow high-density load customers such as cryptocurrency companies to qualify for service under an individual service agreement. That individual service agreement tariff includes provisions to protect existing customers from increased supply costs resulting from the new service.

County Planning Board members suggested a comment be added to their return letter to ensure there was enough power on site so the operation would not have a detrimental impact on other tenants at the mall.

©2020 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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