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Controversial Washington data center project opens

Washington’s new State Data Center complex on the capitol campus.
Washington’s new State Data Center complex on the capitol campus.";

The newest building on Washington's capitol campus came in under budget, but nonetheless remains controversial. The doors opened Monday on the office tower portion of a new $300 million data center complex.

On day one, orange-clad construction workers put the finishing touches on the limestone-clad building. Eventually it will hold nearly 1,000 workers from nine different Washington state agencies that are consolidating into two.

Rents in the building are nearly double the going rate in Thurston County. But project spokeswoman Joanne Todd explains the state will own the building after 30 years.

"The state will have an asset that will last a long time," Todd says. "And this building was built to last unlike a lot of leased buildings."

Controversy remains over the data center portion of the project. Critics say it is overbuilt.

There are four data halls, but the state only plans to use two of them. The goal is to lease the other two to the private sector, but there's no guarantee of a willing tenant.  

"We still have a mess on our hands,” says Democratic State Representative Reuven Carlyle, a frequent critic of the project.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.