Montville data center developer hopes to break ground this fall

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Montville — A developer planning a large-scale campus for several data centers on a 300-acre site hopes to break ground on the first two buildings in the fall, setting in motion a 10- to 15-year construction project that officials say could boost the local and regional economy with engineering and technology jobs driven by a burgeoning data market.

The Planning and Zoning Commission in April and late June approved site plans for several large data storage buildings totaling more than 1 million square feet of floor space on a campus between Route 32 and the Thames River, including lots along Route 32, Derry Hill Road and Massapeag Side Road. Each building will include an office, electrical room and data hall housing computer and networking equipment that the developer, Verde Group LLC, and officials say could serve the data needs of government, defense, tech, financial and other firms.

"It takes about two years to build one of these from soup to nuts, hooked up with computers in the building. Eighteen months to build and six to seven months to fit it out," Verde Group LLC CEO Thomas Quinn said in an interview.

Quinn noted that some of the buildings will be hyperscale data centers that could draw major cloud-based companies, while others would serve as co-location facilities renting space to potentially more than a dozen companies in a range of industries that require high-speed data. Verde Group LLC is working on partnerships with multiple companies, but Quinn said it was too early to provide details on any potential partners, clients or total project costs.

While construction could create thousands of temporary jobs over the next decade, Quinn said the data centers' biggest benefit will be bringing ancillary businesses, including tech firm offices, to the region.

"We will draw tech jobs into the state regionally and nearby these data centers. That's been the pattern nationally," he said. "I think it will be a solid thing for Connecticut, which doesn't have any data industry."

As part of an agreement after yearslong negotiations with Mayor Ron McDaniel, and one of the conditions of site plan approval, Verde Group LLC over the last two weeks razed more than a dozen dilapidated houses "and associated outbuildings that have been uninhabitable and in disrepair," McDaniel said Tuesday.

"If this gets fully built out, it will certainly change the landscape of not only Montville but of southeastern Connecticut," he added.

Previous owners and mortgage holders of the site were plagued by bankruptcies and lawsuits, as plans stalled for hotels, golf courses, luxury condominiums, upscale stores and a marina, leaving overgrown plots and empty houses.

McDaniel and other officials have declined to estimate potential property tax revenue for the town from the data center campus, but they have applauded the new development and the demolition of the long-abandoned buildings, which came about a year after a previous owner of the site paid $1.3 million in back taxes owed since 2010.

"This could be a real change for the town of Montville if this really comes to fruition," Town Council Deputy Chairman Wills Pike said Monday night, adding that he was impressed with the developer's "lofty goals" and responsiveness and collaboration with town planners.

The developers are overcoming a lack of frontage along Route 32 — which Town Planner Marcia Vlaun described as a yearslong stumbling block for the site — by purchasing abutting privately owned parcels and land north of Saint Bernard School owned by the Norwich Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation. Quinn said the first half of the project does not impact wetlands, but the developer in the future will seek approval for site plans closer to the Thames River that could require review by the Inland Wetlands Commission.

Quinn said the developer was drawn to Montville in part due to town officials' willingness to allow for combined plots to help create a large campus site. Quinn added that the area also has good access to electricity — a big demand for big data, as some of the buildings may require up to 48 megawatts of power. Quinn said the cost of utilities can be a drawback in Connecticut, but the developer would buy power under a wholesale rate available through Eversource to customers whose demand equals or exceeds 1 megawatt.

Quinn said the data centers would house gas engine generators, as opposed to diesel, for backup power. He added that with constant and rapid technology advances, the developer "may get halfway through the project and only use half" of the electricity it expects to use based on current estimates.

Plans call for the extension of water, sewer, gas, electric and telecommunications lines, and will require a number of permits, including a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection stormwater quality permit.


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