Rents cause sticker shock at new state data center

Jan 17, 2011

Construction of Washington's new $300 million data center complex is expected to wrap-up this summer. But as state agencies prepare to move in, the rent per square foot is causing some sticker shock.

The state data center is a limestone-clad complex just off I-5 at the exit to the state capitol. These days there's a lot of earth moving and landscaping going on out front.

Later this year, the Department of Information Services and other state agencies will start moving in. But it won't be cheap. Current state lease rates in Thurston County average $20 per square foot. The cost at the new data center complex? Nearly double that: $35 per square foot and that will jump to almost $44 by 2014.

That does include furniture and all the amenities of a brand new building.

Stan Marshburn is deputy director of the governor's budget office and he says, "The timing is difficult."  He acknowledges some heartburn over the higher rents – especially in light of Washington's ongoing budget crisis. But he says this is a lease-to-own building and down the road it will pay off:

"Initially there's a sticker shock. Opening the door, it's a brand new building — the cost of the brand new building is a lot. Over 30 years the building will be a reasonable cost for the taxpayers to pay for an office space," he said.

There's another issue too. A consultant's report suggests the state overbuilt the data center portion of the project. According to the report, the state's computer servers would only fill one-half of one data hall - and there are four data halls in the structure.

In order to make the data center pencil out, the plan now is to lease out that extra space to other government entities or perhaps even the private sector.