The Henrico Planning Commission in Virginia has approved Project Echo, a 2.5 million square foot (232,258 sq m) project from an unidentified company.

While trying to ascertain the owner, DCD discovered that whoever it is seems to also be behind a similar project in Prince William County, Virginia.

Mystery owner

White Oak Technology Park
White Oak Technology Park

The Henrico facility is planned for the White Oak Technology Park, which is also home to a 1.5m sq ft (139,354 sq m) QTS data center.

Notes from a planning meeting state: “This plan of development is for the construction of a data center in phases. Phase I proposes two, one-story connected buildings with mechanical penthouses, approximately 1,000,000 square feet in total, with associated support facilities.

“The master plan proposes additional buildings up to 1,500,000 square feet and additional associated support facilities.”

It continues: “The proposed development is within the White Oak Technology Park and therefore is subject to review and approval by the White Oak Technology Park Development Review Board (DRB). The DRB has granted conceptual and preliminary approval of the proposal and will review the final construction plans, including landscaping plans, at a later date.”

While the facility owner is not named, the developer is listed as Delaware-based Scout Development LLC and the project engineer is Northern Virginia-based Christopher Consultants, with the project head being Gregory Drew.

Those two companies are also involved in another, previously unreported, data center of the same size in the same state. It is possible that whoever is is building the data center is proceeding with both sites in case one gets caught up in planning permission delays - which can happen - or plans to use each site to bargain for better tax deals - which can also happen.

Scout Development and Christopher Consulting (again with the project head being Gregory Drew) are working on a project called ‘Aura Development’ in Brentsville Magisterial District, Prince William County, Virginia.

Aura Development
– Prince William County

One document application on the project (attached below) states: “The Applicant proposes to construct a data center facility consisting of up to 2,500,000 gross square feet.”

A meeting on the development is scheduled for 20 September at the Prince William County Government’s James J. McCoart Administration Building.

As yet, DCD has not been able to verify who is actually behind both projects, but will continue to research. Should you have any additional information, please let us know anonymously at [email protected]

Why so secret?

It is not unusual for large companies to obscure their identity until the last possible moment - sometimes to ensure that tax break negotiations are not wrapped up in discussions over the huge profits the company makes, and sometimes to ensure that their data center plans are not easily followed by the competition.

When Facebook considered either Utah or New Mexico as the location for a major data center project, it operated through a company called Greater Kudu LLC. The company was created purely for the purposes of Project Discus, the data center, and allowed Facebook to engage in covert lobbying for months before Kudu was linked to the social network. It tried to do a similar thing in Nebraska, but DCD outed the company.

Microsoft has also long shrouded its data centers in secrecy, recently revealing itself as the company behind Project Osmium, a West Des Moines data center that will cost $417.7 million for just its first phase.