Bad ideas never fully go away, do they?
Way back in 2014, the City of Chicago approved plans for a new annex to the Digital Realty data center in the South Loop area as part of a Planned Development. When the PD approval lapsed without Digital Realty building the new structure, however, local residents thought the plan was dead.
Now it is back, and in a not-much modified form. The original plan called for 16 stories and 600,000 square feet of space, with the building up against the sidewalk on 21st Street. New plans call for 13 stories and 500,000 square feet, with the structure set back 16 feet from the 21st Street sidewalk to allow for a few trees.
The Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance is leading the opposition to the new plan, along with the South Loop Concerned Coalition, and rightly so.
These opponents note that such data centers cause noise and air pollution. Local residents already suffer from dust and sound from the existing data center, and are disturbed by alarms going off both day and night that blare for minutes or hours at a time. A new data center would only make the problem worse. Serap Erdal, a faculty member at the University of Illinois Chicago, worries about respiratory irritation and cardiovascular disease increasing in the area, and about diesel exhaust and carbon dioxide pollutants.
Digital Realty offered us a prepared statement but did not afford our reporter the opportunity to question them on the pollution issue.
We commend PDNA and SLCC for fighting this data center expansion and urge the South Loop Neighbors and Near South Planning Board, groups not currently opposed, to get on board. We also urge 3rd Ward Alderwoman Pat Dowell, the Chicago Plan Commission, the City Council Committee on Zoning, and the City Council to reject this proposal.
While such a data center might have been perfect for the South Loop in its industrial days, those days have been gone for 40 years. It is inappropriate and undesirable for the residential community that is today’s South Loop.