Proposed State Line Data Center and Old Power Plant Share More Than a Location

The developers of a digital data center that is planned for the far northwest corner of Robertsdale received a half-million-dollar loan from the Lake County Economic Development Commission. The project is expected to cost at least $40-million-dollars. More than ninety years earlier, another multi-million-dollar project was in the planning stages for that same site. And just like this project, that one was in response to the growing demands of the business world.

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The new development is in response to the growing need for data storage. According to an article in The Times, if the facility becomes a reality it could provide data storage for “international carriers, cellphone providers, banks, telecommunications companies, tech companies, insurance firms, large pharmacy chains and content providers like Netflix and Hulu.”

It will be located on the site where the State Line Generating Plant operated until 2012. Plans for that project were announced in 1926. At the time, it was estimated to cost $25-million-dollars. Samuel Insull, chairman of the board of Commonwealth Edison, said at the time that the power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan would be “the world’s largest,” and he said it was being built to meet the growing demand for electricity by area industries.

“The growth in this area, as we look back at it, has been phenomenal,” Insull said in a statement in March of 1926. Heavy industries in Hammond, Whiting, East Chicago and Gary were consuming massive amounts of electricity, as were the industrial plants across the line in Chicago. Insull said that the area’s need for electricity in 1926, “is quite likely to be dwarfed in the future.” He said the power plant was needed so that the area would be able to realize its future possibilities.

Before the power plant was constructed, a crew of three hundred men prepared the site. According to a 1927 newspaper article that preparation including filling in some of the lakeshore. Access to that portion of Lake Michigan has been closed to the public ever since. A new biking trail recently opened up through a portion of that land which had been closed. If the proposed data center is built plans call for opening up more of the lakeshore site, which lies between Hammond’s Lakefront Park and Calumet Park in Chicago.