Data Center Heading Underground At Kansas City’s SubTropolis

In the underground commercial real estate market — a genre one might call “natural roof” commercial real estate –  development starts at the ground and proceeds downward instead of upward. Using underground structures — some naturally occurring, some dug or bored — has long been associated with special-purpose building projects including military and scientific uses.  But increasingly, business is joining the rush for subterranean space, drawn by the many unique benefits of going underground.

There is probably no more eye-popping  US example of underground commercial real estate development than Kansas City’s SubTropolis.  Billed as “The World’s Largest Underground Business Complex”, SubTropolis is a mixed industrial-office-warehouse facility sporting a stunning 55 million square feet — and growing.  Dug into an active limestone mine and reaching depths of 160 feet beneath the surface, the property contains almost seven miles of illuminated, paved roads, plus several miles of railroad track.

As the complex’s pitch says:

Move to SubTropolis and enjoy these standard benefits: 

  • Low lease rates — 30-50% less than above ground facilities
  • Low utility costs — 50-70% savings in total energy costs
  • Constant temperature and humidity levels — protect your products and make your employees more productive
  • Maximum flexibility — for expansion and seasonal surges
  • On-site services — management, maintenance and 24/7 security so you can run your business, not your building
  • Sustainability — you’re more sustainable without the upfront costs (Check out our green statement.)


Data Center Digs In

Sustainability, energy savings, low utility costs — if the benefits list of this unique property seems to you like a good match for data center location, you’re not alone. As reported in NREI Online, SubTropolis’s developer is working with Iowa-based LightEdge Solutions to install a new data center by spring 2014. LightEdge is taking occupancy of 20,000 square feet with a deal to ultimately occupy 60,000 sq. ft of the facility’s monster footprint.

“Masterson says his firm already has agreements to host carriers such as AT&T, Surewest, TW Telecom, Time Warner, Unite and Windstream. The company plans to provide network connectivity up to 10 gigabits per second. Masterson says the underground facility will provide benefits that are just not achievable with above-ground construction.

“The flexibility aspect is amazing, we can expand into new space within 90 days,” he says. “Also, Subtropolis is laid out in grid fashion, we don’t have to work around weird-angled wall space. The best aspect, of course, is how secure the structure is against weather or instability.”

Other underground facilities across the country have been reaching out to start commercial data hosting. Iron Mountain Inc., one of the most well-known data storage firms, has been leasing underground space to the U.S. government for years, and this year decided to open its underground facility in Boyers, Pa. for colocation. The former limestone mine is positioned 220 feet below ground, with ambient temperatures in the mid-50s and geothermal cooling. Marriott already leases 12,500 sq. ft. there for disaster recovery purposes.”

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