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eStruxture converts former printing facility to 30MW data centre

A facility that opened 20 years ago as the printing press of the future for The Montreal Gazette...

IMAGE: The new MTL-2 facility owned and operated by eStruxture Data Centers. (Courtesy eStruxture)

The new MTL-2 facility owned and operated by eStruxture Data Centers. (Courtesy eStruxture)

A facility that opened 20 years ago as the printing press of the future for The Montreal Gazette has now been transformed into eStruxture Data Centers’ largest data centre.

Dubbed MTL-2, the data centre includes more than 187,000 square feet of colocation space with a planned total capacity of 30 megawatts. It’s on St. Jacques Street in Montreal’s Notre Dame de Grâce (NDG) neighbourhood, near the downtown core.

The new data centre “is certainly our largest single centre investment” and is “far and away the largest in terms of square footage and total power capacity,” says eStruxture founder and CEO Todd Coleman. 

eStruxture acquired The Gazette printing press from Postmedia in 2017 for less than $20 million. The facility had opened in 1999 and closed 15 years later in 2014 when printing of the newspaper was outsourced to Transcontinental.

Coleman expects the total investment, once the facility is fully built in all planned phases, will top $150 million.

“The upshot of this facility is that it’s a heavily fortified building (with) lots of density, lots of floor loading, so it’s perfect for a data centre.”

During the opening of the facility, tours were given of a number of areas, including the data hall, uninterrupted power supply, diesel generators and the network operations centre, which is open 24 hours a day.

eStruxture has room to grow

The building has already seen its square footage increase from the original 156,000 square foot to 187,000 as mezzanines and additional floor plates have been added to areas where printing presses once stood.

Coleman says there is additional room to grow on the almost 10-acre site.

“We can easily put in another 100,000-square-foot building on top of this,” he says. “You could add another 50 to 60 per cent capacity.”

Given that the new facility has just opened, “we’re substantially underutilized. That’s the benefit of moving in here – customers can grow exponentially. We’re not necessarily kept at 30 megawatts.”

A successful data centre used to be seen as being near full capacity but times have changed, says David Cervantes, senior vice-president, advisory and transaction at CBRE, which has eStruxture as a client.

“Now if you don’t have the ability to quickly respond to immediate demands, you’re actually out of the game,” Cervantes says.

Data centre providers start creating additional capacity, or developing other data centres, as soon as they top 60 to 70 per cent capacity, he says.

“Capacity means opportunity and you always have to prove to your clients that you have the ability to let them scale at their facility or at the next one you’re going to develop.”

NDG data centre clients

It’s not the first time a newspaper printing press has been transformed into a data centre in Canada.

In 2018, Digital Realty opened its TOR1 data centre at the Toronto Star’s former printing plant in Vaughan, which closed in 2016. The 711,000-square-foot site has up to 46 megawatts of critical load capacity.

eStruxture’s new NDG data centre has a number of clients in visual effects and computer-generated imagery. The facility is 6.4 miles away from eStruxture’s downtown Montreal network hub, MTL-1, a 35,000-square-foot, five-megawatt facility in Place Victoria, the former stock exchange building.

“We have a number of large-scale, multi-megawatt hyper-scale customers that are looking to come in (to the NDG facility),” Coleman says.

“And then we’ve got customers that are already in our other facilities, but are looking for disaster recovery or some diversity outside the downtown but within close enough proximity. It runs the gamut.”

Cervantes says the new data centre marks the first time in Canada CBRE has listed the critical IT inside a data centre.

“We are very active in the land acquisition and building acquisition for data centres, but we’re proud to make this the first featured critical IT listing in the country.”

There is a role for the brokerage community to promote deals within data centres, but brokers have previously been reticent to do so because of a lack of familiarity with the business, he says.

Montreal-based eStruxture has another data centre with 10,000 square feet and about 1.5 megawatts in Boucherville on the South Shore.

Acquired Calgary data centre

In August, the company acquired a 65,000-square-foot data centre in Calgary from Shaw Communications. It has plenty of capacity and is under-utilized, “which we love,” Coleman says.

In Vancouver, eStruxture has a 10,000-square-foot facility in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood with several film studio clients.

The company is also building a facility with about 55,000 square feet on the border of Vancouver and Burnaby that should go live in mid-2020.

Coleman says Canada has three primary markets and four or five secondary markets, all of which are on eStruxture’s data centre list in varying degrees of priority.

“We would expect to enter into a couple more markets in the next 12 to 18 months,” with Toronto as an obvious candidate.

The company will also look at Edmonton and Ottawa and wants to be on the East Coast “because there are large transoceanic fibre systems that land in those locations.”

In June, eStruxture secured an expanded $170-million credit facility with a group of Canadian banks, led by Scotiabank and National Bank of Canada.

eStruxture also received an undisclosed investment last summer from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Fengate Asset Management.

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