Cascade Locks Rejects $100 Million
by Mike Rogoway
A startup's plan to build a $100 million data center in the Columbia River Gorge has collapsed after public sentiment coalesced against the project.
A newly formed business called Roundhouse Digital Infrastructure had proposed building a data center in a vacant industrial building at the Port of Cascade Locks, about 40 miles east of Portland. Roundhouse had sought a 25-year lease and said it would host other companies' data and provide technology services at the site.
Many residents raised objections, though, expressing concern about how the project's power needs would affect the small community's future electricity supply and whether Roundhouse's plans were viable.
Cascade Locks voters recalled two port commissioners last month who had supported the data center and two other commissioners who had backed negotiations with Roundhouse recently lost their re-election bids.
There were many other issues at play in those election campaigns, including the work environment for port employees, the departure of the port's prior general manager and the operation of the Bridge of the Gods, which is owned and managed by the port.
But Jeremiah Blue, the port's new manager, said the recent votes made it clear the community didn't favor the data center. The port and Roundhouse jointly announced Thursday that they are killing the project.
"We just didn't feel like there was enough public support to continue with it," Blue said.
Oregon is awash in server farms, from Hillsboro to Hermiston. Most are built by well-capitalized data hosting companies or tech giants like Amazon and Facebook, lured to Oregon by extraordinary tax incentives worth more than $180 million a year to the industry.
The Cascade Locks project was unusual in that Roundhouse was a brand-new venture led by an entrepreneur named Stephen King, who didn't have much experience in data hosting and hadn't yet raised the money to fund the project. King had a history of business disputes with former partners and debts connected to prior deals.
Nonetheless, the Port of Cascade Locks had pursued the data center project vigorously. The port is eager to find a tenant for an industrial building called Flex 6 after the prior tenant, a clothing manufacturer, walked out on its lease last year.
The port had borrowed $6.5 million from the state to finance construction of the 43,000-square-foot building and is on the hook for $53,000 in monthly loan payments and upkeep.
The end of the Roundhouse talks leaves the port still needing to fill that space, Blue acknowledged.
"Flex 6 does become a huge priority for us," he said. "We will likely entertain anything in there that isn't a data center. I don't know that we see that as a good fit."
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