Giant commercial properties built in the early 20th century to handle the business of an entire country — to bake its bread or to print its mail-order catalogs — don’t often age well. They meet their end close to a century later with a swing of the wrecking ball. Some, spared that fate, languish in blight, abandoned testaments to market forces long having evolved.
The industrial midwest has plenty of of these empty shells shadowing communities that once depended upon them for economic vitality. But in Chicago, the local stretch of the rust belt that girds North America is being reshaped by new market forces and the fiber optic cable they travel upon. The next industrial midwest is rising in the old one’s walls: data center retrofits.