Project Smart is the code name for a Dallas-based company planning to locate a data center facility on a 44-acre property in the 320-acre Riverside West Business Park in Douglasville as early as next year.
A recent item in the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that Project Smart is said to involve Dallas-based CyrusOne Inc. According to the report, a CyrusOne spokeswoman declined to comment earlier this week.
In May, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported CyrusOne’s plans to enter the Atlanta market with an up to 1 million-square-foot data center campus. A project that could involve an investment of up to $500 million, according to industry sources at the time.
With the addition of the new firm, the Riverside Parkway area of Douglasville is becoming a hotbed for data centers — Google is there, as are others like Price Waterhouse Cooper and wholesale data center specialist Sabey Corporation. Data centers are a target industry for economic development as the mostly industrial Douglas County transforms itself for the digital age. Project Smart is the latest.
As part of the process, the Douglasville City Council green-lighted a tax abatement plan for the $206 million data center. The data center operator will be exempt from paying a percentage of its property taxes for a defined period of time, on an unspecified performance basis.
Chris Pumphrey, executive director of the Development Authority of Douglas County, addressed the city council earlier this month during their work session and said that the city development authority had voted unanimously to recommend that the council approve the incentive plan.
“We do target these kinds of industries, they do make significant tax contributions to the community, they pay above average salaries that are well above average for the community, and they require minimum local services,” Pumphrey told council members.
Pumphrey said that the process still has some steps ahead including the bond validation process and closing on the property, but that he expects an announcement by year-end.
Pumphrey stated that although the abatement will affect the city’s revenue as well as the building owner’s final tax bill, the data center equipment, valued at approximately $600 million, will be taxed in full.
“It’s tough to make these decisions when we’re giving stuff away to get stuff,” commented Councilman Mike Miller, referring to the tax abatement plan the council would be voting on. “Sometimes we don’t always get stuff.”
Joining Pumphrey at the work session, Jeff Hill, a spokesperson with Project Smart, said that the investment locally is for $206 million and that the goal is to expand operations in the future.
Hill told Miller and other council members that the intent was to remain in the Atlanta area and on site for many years to come, reassuring the council that the city would get its money’s worth out of the plan.
Councilman Richard Segal, commenting during the work session, said he was glad this was not another distribution center due to the increased truck traffic those kinds of operations bring to the neighborhood. Riverside Parkway is in Segal’s Ward.
“The IT environment has evolved and it’s still a young industry,” Segal said. “I think we’re primed for it, we have great connections to fiber here, great providers of electricity here ... and that’s one of the ways we look at the economic impact of the data centers coming in. The electricity providers provide a franchise fee to the city ... so that‘s part of the economic impact, not just the jobs they provide, or the property taxes, or the multiplier effect that comes with those employees that come here.”
In summary Pumphrey told the council that Project Smart will involve 48 employees through its three phases of investment.
Contacted after the meeting for confirmation of the CyrusOne link to the project, Pumphrey said, "At this point we're excited to have Project Smart locating in our community as they are one of our targeted industry sectors."
According to Commercial Business Real Estate, Atlanta became one of the United States’ most active data center markets in the first half of 2017, with half a dozen providers building or buying facilities in and around the city, including (Dallas-based) Databank, Ascent, Carter Validus REIT and Digital Realty.