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Rent shock at state’s new data center complex

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Construction of Washington's new $300 million data center complex is expected to wrap-up this summer. But as state agencies prepare to move in, the rent per square foot is causing some sticker shock.

The limestone-clad complex just off I-5 at the exit to the state capitol is still under construction. But later this year, the Department of Information Services and other state agencies will start moving in.

And it won't be cheap.

Current state lease rates in Thurston County average $20 per square foot. The cost at the new data center complex is nearly double that: $35 per square foot, jumping to almost $44 by 2014.

That does include furniture and all the amenities of a brand new building.

Looking ahead

"The timing is difficult," admits Stan Marshburn, deputy director of the governor's budget office. He acknowledges some heartburn over the higher rents – especially in light of Washington's ongoing budget crisis. But he says this is a lease-to-own building and down the road it will pay off.

"Initially there's a sticker shock. Opening the door, it's a brand new building – the cost of the brand new building is a lot. Over 30 years the building will be a reasonable cost for the taxpayers to pay for an office space."

There's another issue too. A consultant's report suggests the state overbuilt the data center portion of the project. According to the report, the state's computer servers would only fill one-half of one data hall – and there are four data halls in the structure.

In order to make the data center pencil out, the plan now is to lease out that extra space to other government entities or perhaps even the private sector.

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Copyright 2010 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.