Although data centers are well established in Prince William County, several new centers have been approved in recent weeks, and one planned in Gainesville could increase the industry’s square feet in the county by well over 50%.
Gainesville Crossing is expected to build a data center with up to 3 million square feet of space north of Interstate 66 and south of U.S. Route 29. The county recently put the total size of existing data centers at 5.2 million square feet.
County staff said Gainesville Crossing may use some of the data center space for other light industrial and office uses. The site also will have up to 60,000 square feet of commercial space, primarily serving a nearby commuter lot. The nearly 153-acre development is expected to be completed by 2022.
On Dec. 10, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved a rezoning application from developers 7-1. Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, cast the only vote against the application.
Principi made a motion to defer the application, because the proposed data center is not in the county’s data center opportunity overlay district and because of the possibility that Dominion Energy would need to build more power lines — possibly cutting through residential areas — to serve the project, among other reasons. However, no other supervisor supported Principi’s motion.
Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, said he would not support the project if it required additional power lines to be built, but he said at the meeting that he had to believe Dominion Energy. In a Dec. 4 letter, Dominion officials stated they expect they’ll be able to supply power to the site, although that doesn’t mean Dominion wouldn’t need to build additional infrastructure in the future.
“I’m not ready to take Dominion at their word,” Principi said.
In October, Dominion Energy began construction of a 5-mile power line project through Gainesville. Dominion officials say the new line is necessary to help power a data center in Haymarket owned by an Amazon subsidiary and to keep the system reliable. The project consists of about 2.2 miles of overhead lines and 3.1 miles of underground line, according to Dominion.
The Coalition to Protect Prince William County formed in 2014 after Dominion proposed building 100-foot tall transmission towers and a new substation for the data center tied to Amazon. The coalition opposed adding overhead lines through rural private property, including a proposed route through Carver Road, a historically black community with roots dating to those freed from slavery.
Dominion’s original proposal would have cost an estimated $55 million, according to Dominion officials. The approved project is estimated to cost $175 million. The Virginia State Corporation Commission approved the I-66 hybrid route project in July 2018.
The project will be in service by Dec. 31, 2021, although some work will continue through 2022 to restore right-of-ways and replant grass, according to Dominion officials.
Gainesville Crossing is joining several other high-profile data center developments that have been announced in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, Iron Mountain announced that expansion is underway at its existing $100 million data center near Manassas. A $225 million building will be built in phases, and the company expects its Prince William County campus will have nearly 50 employees when completed. Iron Mountain expects the first phase of the new building to be completed early next year.
In November, the board of supervisors approved a rezoning application from Youth for Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Bristow that offers counseling services and housing to children in crisis. The rezoning allows for five additional homes on the sprawling 105-acre campus, as well as space for a data center on the property off Linton Hall Road near Nokesville Road.
According to Youth for Tomorrow, the proposed data center will provide funding for the nonprofit and won’t generate a lot of traffic. The proposed data center would not be visible from Linton Hall Road.