Switch begins construction on second data center at Gaines Township pyramid campus

GAINES TWP. — Site preparation for construction has started on a long-planned expansion at Switch Communications Group LLC’s data center in Gaines Township, MiBiz has learned.

Township officials approved a site plan amendment in July 2021 for a 312,000-square-foot expansion at Switch’s existing data center, located at the former Steelcase Inc. “pyramid” building in Gaines Township.

Township Development Director Dan Wells said the expansion is “kind of off and running” with ongoing site preparation work. He added that the company will “start to pour some foundations” before this winter. Excavation crews were active at the property on Friday afternoon. 

A Switch official could not immediately be reached for comment, although the publicly traded company disclosed in its second-quarter earnings report that it had spent $800,000 at the Gaines Township campus “for site preparation work related to the GRAND RAPIDS 2 data center.”

According to the site plan amendment approved last year, the new data center would be in addition to the existing 360,000 square feet of data storage and office suites at the pyramid. Township officials also approved updated landscaping plans that include a transparent fence in lieu of a concrete wall, Wells said.

An expansion at the pyramid building has been planned for years, dating back to the company’s initial announcement of the project in late 2015. A Switch official said at the time that “our goal is to never stop building. We want this to be a non-stop construction project.”

The company opened the West Michigan data center to serve its clients on the East Coast. Switch acquired the pyramid property in late 2017 for $22.2 million, two years after Steelcase unloaded the former research center property for $4 million.

Upon the property receiving Renaissance Zone status that exempting the company from paying most state and local taxes, Switch had promised $5 billion in new investments and up to 1,000 jobs over several phases. However, the company did agree to a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with Kent County and Gaines Township. Wells said prior tax-related agreements were unchanged as part of the expansion.

Switch selected Lansing-based The Christman Co. to serve as the general contractor of the initial pyramid build-out. A Christman Co. representative could immediately be reached for comment.

After the Nevada-based Switch went public in 2018, the company has a pending $11 billion sale to DigitalBridge Group Inc. and an affiliate of global infrastructure investor IMF Investors. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, according to Switch’s second-quarter earnings report.

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