Developer adds tech spin to Englewood project

After cutting a deal with Kimbal Musk's urban farming startup, the developer of the second phase of Englewood Square now plans to bring a data center to the Whole Foods-anchored project.

 

The Englewood development anchored by a Whole Foods Market may soon have gigabytes and greens to go with its groceries.

 

Chicago developer Craig Huffman said he has reached a preliminary agreement to bring a data center to Englewood Square, a city-backed shopping center in the South Side neighborhood that opened to much hoopla in 2016. Huffman’s firm, Ascendance Partners, which is developing the second phase of the project, also has cut a tentative deal with Family Dollar, which would open a 10,000-square-foot store there.

 

The city had high hopes for Englewood Square when it opened at the corner of Halsted and 63rd streets more than two years ago, believing that the arrival of the Whole Foods, along with a neighboring Chipotle and Starbucks, would provide an economic boost to the poor neighborhood and open the door to more retail development there. But Huffman is reaching beyond retail to fill up Englewood Square: Earlier this year, Square Roots, an urban farming startup founded by Kimbal Musk, brother of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, agreed to run a high-tech farm in shipping containers on the property.

 

“We’re bringing technology and innovation to support Englewood Square, which is the future,” said Huffman, co-founder and principal of Ascendance. “No offense to traditional retail jobs, but in five to 10 years, many of those jobs will not exist.”


Huffman said he is in talks with banks, including Goldman Sachs, Wintrust and Fifth Third, that are interested in financing the second phase of Englewood Square, which would cost $25 million to $30 million and include the redevelopment of a vacant firehouse on the property. He still needs the approval of the city, which owns the 4.5-acre development site, and has yet to negotiate a deal to buy the property.

 

Metro Edge Technologies, an upstart data center company, has signed a letter of intent to open a 10,000-square-foot data center at Englewood Square, confirmed Vance Kenney, managing partner of the firm. Huffman sits on the company’s board.

 

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