Facebook Teams Up for Next Phase of Massive Data Center Campus in Fort Worth

In Industry Newsby Bradford

Social Media Giant Forms Partnership to Retrofit Former Blue Cross Blue Shield Data Center

Facebook has once again decided to raise its data center profile in Texas, but instead of constructing another data hall at what was built as the largest U.S. facility of its kind along Like Way in Fort Worth, Texas, the social media giant is thinking outside the box.

Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, is teaming up with global data center provider QTS Realty Trust Inc. to redevelop an existing 262,000-square-foot data center on 53 acres adjacent to the wind-powered Facebook campus, which sits on about 200 acres at 4500 Like Way in Fort Worth. The retrofit and redevelopment of the data center is expected to cost at least $150 million.

With certain project requirements in tow, Fort Worth city council members are considering the project for a one-year, 20 percent tax abatement on real and personal property. The economic incentive, which was outlined by Robert Sturns, the economic development director of Fort Worth, to city council members on Tuesday, will formally go before the council as part of the agenda for the March 26 city council meeting.

“Facebook plans to convert the QTS site adjacent to their existing data campus to expand its data center,” Sturns said in an interview.

QTS and Facebook declined to comment on the partnership and project.

In the past 24 months, there has been an influx of social media and cloud providers working with third-party data center providers, such as this newfound partnership between Facebook and QTS, said Bo Bond, a managing director in JLL’s Dallas office focused on data center space.

Bond, who did not know the partnership had formalized, said social media platforms like Facebook are utilizing third-party data center providers to gain the speed-to-market needed to quickly file away a growing amount of social media ranging from cat videos to political rants.

“They are utilizing data center providers and putting in operating leases versus having to go build, own and manage facilities themselves,” Bond said. “They utilize third-party providers to lease office and warehouse space and this is an extension of that. It looks like they want to lease the data center next door.”

In February 2017, Overland, Kansas-based QTS acquired the existing data center from Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., an affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield for an undisclosed price. At the time, the Fort Worth data center campus was said to support more than 300,000 square feet of raised floor space and 60 megawatts of gross power.

Dan Bennewitz, the company’s now-retired chief operating officer, said in an interview at that time the company wanted to continue growing its presence in North Texas because of its “great business environment.” QTS also has a large data center campus in the Dallas suburb of Irving.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s $1 billion data center campus has continued to get bigger, with a third data hall slated for completion next month. The campus already includes two completed data halls connected by an office and amenity building for employees in an ‘H’-like configuration. The two, 440,000-square-foot data halls are longer than four football fields.

In a tour in May 2017, Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure Thomas Furlong said the company always saw itself growing and grabbed enough adjacent land to build five buildings to help support the social media company’s growth in the future.

Upon opening, the Fort Worth data center campus became the largest data center of its kind in the United States.

Facebook also has data center operations in Prineville, Oregon; Forest City, North Carolina; Altoona, Iowa; Los Lunas, New Mexico; and Ashburn, Virginia. Globally, the tech giant also has data center operations in Lulea, Sweden; Clonee, Ireland; and Singapore.