Data center planned near BeltLine may exceed size allowed under pending rules

By David Pendered

Plans are advancing to enable the expansion of a data center in the vicinity of the Atlanta BeltLine near the Bellwood Quarry. The new facility would be larger than allowed under pending restrictions on the size of data centers near the BeltLine, though it’s not immediately clear if this site would be in the restricted area.

data center, locator map

Plans call for the expansion of a data center located in the vicinity of the Atlanta BeltLine and the Bellwood Quarry – site of a future park that’s to be the largest in Atlanta. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

Plans call for the construction of a data center measuring 488,999 square feet on a site at 1025 Jefferson Street, according to an application filed with Atlanta’s Planning Department.

This size is larger than the 300,000 square foot maximum size for a new data center near the BeltLine, as described in legislation pending before the Atlanta City Council. The council is slated to vote on the proposal as early as next month.

The closest landmarks to the site of proposed expansion are the longtime home of the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Fulton County Jail. The BeltLine, Maddox Park and Bellwood Quarry are located to the west. Atlanta’s water works are to the northeast, on Howell Mill Road.

The current property owners, according to the application, are:

  • Development Authority of Fulton County (to benefit QAE Acquisition Co.);
  • QAE Acquisition Co., LLC, of Overland Park, Kansas.;
  • Quality Investment Properties, Metro, LLC, of Overland Park, Kansas;
  • West Midtown Acquisition Co., LLC, of Overland Park, Kansas.
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A data center located near the Bellwood Quarry, and the Fulton County Jail, is to be expanded if Atlanta agrees to reduce the number of parking spaces required by a past zoning action. Credit: David Pendered

The pending size restriction is part of legislation that aims to protect the visual experience of the BeltLine from data centers that look like bland bunkers behind fences that sometimes are topped with razor wire. The proposal sets out specific rules on the design of exterior walls, painting and security fencing.

One question BeltLine maps don’t readily address is whether the site of the proposed expansion is within the boundaries described by the pending legislation. The boundary line proposed in the legislation is 500 feet from the BeltLine corridor. If the site of the proposed expansion isn’t within this boundary, the restriction would not apply.

The property at issue is zoned for an industrial use in the BeltLine Overlay district, according to the application filed with the city.

If the data center is built, the entire facility would be nearly as large as Lenox Square. An existing data center on the property covers 917,772 square feet. The total size of the two facilities would cover 1.4 million square feet; Lenox Square covers 1.5 million square feet.

The site on Jefferson Street faces an obstacle that often would be minor. The applicant is seeking a reduction in the number of parking spaces required by the city.

Atlanta’s regulations require the data center to provide a total of 1,630 parking spaces. This is because the city categorizes data centers as office buildings and the parking formula for office buildings requires 1,630 spaces for this facility, according to the application filed with the city.

Data centers don’t need that much parking, according to the permit application. The operator figures that 40 spaces is ample, and that 281 parking spaces is more than sufficient. This is based on the applicant’s operation of some 3 million square feet of data center space across the country, according to the permit.

 

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This site, adjacent to an existing data center, is to be developed if Atlanta agrees to reduce the number of parking spaces required in order to allow a structure to be built. Credit: David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

2 replies
  1. Avatar
    Chris Johnston says:

    I have experience at this QTS facility, which was first a Sears warehouse. It is beside the Fulton County Jail, and definitely improves the neighborhood.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Elaine Falone says:

    I’m not concerned with the visual aesthetics on Jefferson St near the Fulton County Jail. I am very concerned with the appearance
    of any proposed development on W. Marietta St & on Lowery. Currently there are some beautiful trees in place; also of concern is the impact on the adjoining Historic Howell Station Neighborhood. The Beltline appears to want a massive residential development on the 55 acre site that IMHO would overwhelm the small community as other large developments are planned @ the base of the quarry to the west of Howell Station & would likely turn Howell Station into a main CUT-THROUGH for large amounts of traffic on it’s quiet residential streets, whereas data centers generate very little traffic or impact.
    I’m hopeful negotiators with QTS, et al, will result in plans beneficial for all concerns.Report

    Reply

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