‘Unprecedented demand’: Proposed 160-acre data center would be the largest in Lake County

Rather than classrooms or student gathering spaces, a new campus proposed in Grayslake would house digital infrastructure to support just about everything we do in a cloud-based society.

Atlanta-based T5 Data Centers in early May announced it would significantly expand its footprint with a data center campus on 160 acres at the expansive Cornerstone business park at Peterson and Allegheny roads in central Lake County.

“The new Grayslake campus represents a major investment by T5 to meet the growing demand for large-scale data center capacity to support cloud and artificial intelligence workloads,” David Horowitz, senior vice president said in announcing the plan.

The company bought property directly north of the immense Medline Industries distribution center with an option for more. While the first block of capacity to meet computing demands isn’t targeted until late 2027, the plan has piqued the interest of village officials and others.

“Economic development always bodes well,” said Grayslake Mayor Rhett Taylor. “It diversifies the tax base.”

Based on a rough estimate of construction costs, the T5 proposal when built out would represent an investment of $2.25 billion or more, according to Richard Gatto, executive vice president of the Alter Group.

Alter company secured village approval for the 641-acre Cornerstone in 2009. But until two years ago when Medline opened the 1.4 million-square-foot facility — the largest medical grade distribution center in the country — Cornerstone represented unrealized promise and potential.

T5 is changing that perception.

“It would be huge for Grayslake,” said village Trustee Elizabeth Davies. “It took a long time to get that open field to a set table but it’s there now and one of the few sites ready to serve a business like this.”

The arrival of T5 also allows Alter to proceed to the second phase of Cornerstone development on 200 acres it owns south of Peterson Road, Gatto said.

T5’s multi-phased, multi-building development would be the first project of this scale in Lake County.

“Demand for data centers is incredibly high with the rapid evolution and integration of AI (artificial intelligence) into all aspects of business operations,” explained Ron Lanz, business development director for Lake County Partners, the county’s economic development arm.

“Availability, reliability and cost of the electrical power required to operate these centers is what is driving site location decisions for these centers,” he added.

And the Chicago area is becoming a location of choice. Data centers provide digital infrastructure that supports nearly everything we do, experts say.

“Data centers are the backbone of the modern economy,” said Josh Levi, president of the not-for-profit Data Center Coalition.

“Businesses are investing tens of billions of dollars in capital for new data center facilities across the country to meet unprecedented demand for digital services that are central to our lives, including telehealth, videoconferencing, e-commerce, government services and entertainment,” he said.

According to T5, the Chicago area is one of the premier markets because of “attractive tax incentives, labor pool, established connectivity and power availability.”

T5 already operates in Elk Grove Village and reportedly is developing another in Northlake. When fully built, Grayslake would offer 480 megawatts of IT capacity compared to 30 megawatts in Elk Grove Village.

Since Cornerstone is zoned for its use, only site/building permits will be needed from the village.

Power is another matter. ComEd has worked with nearly 30 new data center projects in northern Illinois in the past five years and with other local entities was involved in supporting the site selection for the planned T5 campus at Cornerstone.

ComEd spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said the company works to deliver power infrastructure upgrades where needed.

“We look forward to welcoming the T5 project to Grayslake and continue to work with the customer to develop plans that will allow them to energize the new campus and bring economic investment into the area,” she said.

T5 in its announcement said Grayslake is part of its strategy to concentrate its data center development to a “shortlist of large-scale campuses.”

Whether the project proceeds from announcement to groundbreaking remains to be seen. Lanz is confident and Taylor is cautiously optimistic.

“It’s on a good trajectory,” Taylor said.

  The T5 Data Center plans to expand its footprint with the development of a data center campus on 160 acres at Cornerstone in Grayslake. Paul Valade/
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