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Facebook's Papillion data center

A pressurized fan room draws air from the outside, through filters, to be cooled and conditioned for use in cooling the servers in Facebook's Papillion Data Center. An unnamed developer is eyeing Lincoln for a large-scale data center.

A large data center project proposed in north Lincoln took a small step forward Wednesday.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission unanimously approved an annexation, zoning change, use permit and amendment to the city's Comprehensive Plan for a nearly 600-acre site northwest of the 56th Street exit on Interstate 80.

First reported by the Journal Star on July 9, a company called Agate LLC has proposed a data center campus on the site that could eventually cover 2 million square feet.

A site plan submitted to the Planning Department shows at least two buildings as part of an initial phase, and a traffic study included with the application estimates there could be 160 full-time employees at the site by 2022, 480 by 2025 and 960 by a projected full build-out of 2040.

According to two state tax incentive applications, Agate has estimated it will spend at least $600 million on the data center.

Agate appears to be a front company for some other entity. It was registered with the Secretary of State's Office in April and lists as its address the office of an incorporation service in Delaware.

Regardless of who is actually behind the project, it would likely be one of the largest economic development projects in the city's history, a fact that is not lost on local officials.

City Planning Director David Cary called it a "very unique opportunity-type project."

Cary noted that the north 56th Street property is listed in the Comprehensive Plan as a potential regional employment center.

"We're talking about a project that is the fruition of what we'd like to see on this property," he said.

Pat Haverty, vice president of economic development for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, said Lincoln has long focused on attracting a large data center because of the capital investment that comes with such operations and the economic impact they can have.

"We think this is a great investment and a great opportunity for the city of Lincoln," Haverty said.

Planning commissioners agreed, using adjectives such as exciting and incredible.

Tom Beckius called it "the kind of development that cities often dream of."

The project will go forward to the City Council, with a public hearing likely sometime next month.

Data center planned

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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