Facebook parent Meta adding to Henrico footprint with code-named ‘Project Tropical’ data center

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has more than doubled its acreage in White Oak Technology Park with a land deal on the south side of Portugee Road. (Image courtesy of Google Earth)

Another sizable, code-named development project is in the works in eastern Henrico’s White Oak Technology Park, and it appears a social media giant is behind it.

Conceptual plans for a “Project Tropical” were filed with Henrico County earlier this month.

The plans call for a pair of data centers to rise at 3951 Portugee Road, a 475-acre plot that was purchased by an entity tied to Meta, Facebook’s parent company, in October for $35.3 million.

Details such as the size of the buildings were not included in the preliminary plans. However, Henrico documents show that two data centers and three auxiliary buildings would rise on the currently wooded area.

The site sits just south across Portugee Road from Meta’s existing 2.4 million-square-foot data center campus, which it built in phases to the tune of more than $1 billion at 6200 and 7301 Technology Blvd. beginning in 2017.

Conceptual plans for a pair of new data centers were filed for the land in recent weeks.

Scout Development LLC, the same entity Meta used to develop and purchase land in White Oak in 2017, was the buyer of the 475 acres at 3951 Portugee Road. County records show that the deal closed on Oct. 31, with Henrico’s Economic Development Authority the seller.

A Meta spokesperson said the company is “always evaluating potential new sites as we expand our global infrastructure” but declined to comment specifically on the Henrico project.

Much like Meta’s initial data center project in White Oak – which was code-named Project Echo – Project Tropical is listed as being fast-tracked through Henrico planning, documents show.

Subcontractors listed on the Project Tropical plans include engineering firms Olsson and HDR, both of which are based in Nebraska; Hargis Engineers out of Seattle; and California-based construction consultant RAS Design Group.

Meta acquired the roughly 326 acres for its existing White Oak data centers in 2017 and 2020 for a total of $13.4 million. With the addition of 3951 Portugee Road, Meta now owns just over 800 acres in the tech park.

White Oak Technology Park spans around 2,300 acres in Eastern Henrico. (Mike Platania photo)

The gears for Project Tropical are getting moving in a time of some turbulence for Meta. Earlier this month the company announced it was laying off over 11,000 people, or 13 percent of its workforce. Meta’s spokesperson declined to confirm whether any of the people impacted were at the Henrico facility.

Totaling around 2,300 acres, White Oak Tech Park houses tenants such as LL Flooring, Hewlett-Packard and QTS, a giant of the data center world that’s working on a 1.5 million-square-foot expansion of its own on Portugee Road.

The Meta project shows the tech park continuing to benefit from its status as a hub for QTS’s so-named Richmond Network Access Point, an inland landing spot for several transcontinental subsea cables that are said to provide some of the fastest internet speeds on the planet.

The cables, which come ashore at Virginia Beach and snake up Interstate 64 through QTS at White Oak, connect internet that reaches South America, Africa and Europe.

Such projects also have been spurred by Henrico’s decision last year to slash its data center tax rate by 88 percent to 40 cents per $100.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has more than doubled its acreage in White Oak Technology Park with a land deal on the south side of Portugee Road. (Image courtesy of Google Earth)

Another sizable, code-named development project is in the works in eastern Henrico’s White Oak Technology Park, and it appears a social media giant is behind it.

Conceptual plans for a “Project Tropical” were filed with Henrico County earlier this month.

The plans call for a pair of data centers to rise at 3951 Portugee Road, a 475-acre plot that was purchased by an entity tied to Meta, Facebook’s parent company, in October for $35.3 million.

Details such as the size of the buildings were not included in the preliminary plans. However, Henrico documents show that two data centers and three auxiliary buildings would rise on the currently wooded area.

The site sits just south across Portugee Road from Meta’s existing 2.4 million-square-foot data center campus, which it built in phases to the tune of more than $1 billion at 6200 and 7301 Technology Blvd. beginning in 2017.

Conceptual plans for a pair of new data centers were filed for the land in recent weeks.

Scout Development LLC, the same entity Meta used to develop and purchase land in White Oak in 2017, was the buyer of the 475 acres at 3951 Portugee Road. County records show that the deal closed on Oct. 31, with Henrico’s Economic Development Authority the seller.

A Meta spokesperson said the company is “always evaluating potential new sites as we expand our global infrastructure” but declined to comment specifically on the Henrico project.

Much like Meta’s initial data center project in White Oak – which was code-named Project Echo – Project Tropical is listed as being fast-tracked through Henrico planning, documents show.

Subcontractors listed on the Project Tropical plans include engineering firms Olsson and HDR, both of which are based in Nebraska; Hargis Engineers out of Seattle; and California-based construction consultant RAS Design Group.

Meta acquired the roughly 326 acres for its existing White Oak data centers in 2017 and 2020 for a total of $13.4 million. With the addition of 3951 Portugee Road, Meta now owns just over 800 acres in the tech park.

White Oak Technology Park spans around 2,300 acres in Eastern Henrico. (Mike Platania photo)

The gears for Project Tropical are getting moving in a time of some turbulence for Meta. Earlier this month the company announced it was laying off over 11,000 people, or 13 percent of its workforce. Meta’s spokesperson declined to confirm whether any of the people impacted were at the Henrico facility.

Totaling around 2,300 acres, White Oak Tech Park houses tenants such as LL Flooring, Hewlett-Packard and QTS, a giant of the data center world that’s working on a 1.5 million-square-foot expansion of its own on Portugee Road.

The Meta project shows the tech park continuing to benefit from its status as a hub for QTS’s so-named Richmond Network Access Point, an inland landing spot for several transcontinental subsea cables that are said to provide some of the fastest internet speeds on the planet.

The cables, which come ashore at Virginia Beach and snake up Interstate 64 through QTS at White Oak, connect internet that reaches South America, Africa and Europe.

Such projects also have been spurred by Henrico’s decision last year to slash its data center tax rate by 88 percent to 40 cents per $100.

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Frank Smith
Frank Smith
2 months ago

A quiet, non-polluting neighbor so far.

Michael Patterson
Michael Patterson
2 months ago

Cut corporate tax rates and the investments pour in. Shocker.

John Gerencser
John Gerencser
2 months ago

Eventually you cut taxes so much the basic services, (roads, road maintenance, trash, etc.) will not be available any more. I am all for efficient government, but taxes make it all work. Not to much bonds, need to be paid back along with the interest.

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
2 months ago
Reply to  John Gerencser

They get a special tax rate because the pack so many dollars per square feet into their design. A typical 19″ server rack takes up 4 square feet of footprint. It could hold 30 servers or probably $100K in high end equipment. Figure that out for 1 acre or 43,560 feet and that’s $217Million in equipment at a 20% fill rate allowing for aisleways, etc. The typical personal property business tax rate is $3.50 per $100 per year so in the example above that almost $8M per year just on 43K square feet. I think FB has 1.5 million square… Read more »

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
2 months ago

It’s my understanding that Meta (Facebook) is the largest single taxpayer in Henrico County. They own their buildings and pay real estate taxes on them.
The beauty of data centers is that employ a minimal number of highly paid workers. The tradeoff is that the roads aren’t worn out by tractor trailers, and they don’t present neighborhood traffic problems which are evident seasonally where Amazon distribution centers are located.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
2 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Goochland is hitting the panic button due to a new Amazon Distribution Center opening up at the Oilville Exit on Interstate 64. And they are worried and planking in that the upgraded interchange they approved will need a extra 20 million to be worked to handle the inflow of hundreds of tractor trailers. They are even begging Vdot to shift funds from a Route 288 improvement for this.

Shaun Dover
Shaun Dover
2 months ago

I live in Goochland and have attended some of the meetings on this issue. It is pretty much the residents of one neighborhood causing a stink. There is no “hitting the panic button” or “begging” going on but the county is in talks with VDOT. https://goochlandomm.blogspot.com/2022/08/hard-truths.html

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
2 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

“It’s my understanding that Meta (Facebook) is the largest single taxpayer in Henrico County.” I am going to see what they pay and see if this is correct, I’ll update you with what i find out.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
2 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Response from Henrico: Looks like you got it right minus some shell company nonsense “Mr. Christina, Scout Development LLC was listed as having the highest property tax assessment (real and personal property) in the County for 2022. Scout Development owns the data center properties that are currently utilized by Meta/ Facebook. While I can’t confirm their payment due to confidentiality, their total assessed valuation (real and personal property) is $1,359,531,360. This information was recently included on page 186 in the County’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report, which will be published on the page below in the coming week:  https://henrico.us/finance/public-data/. I apologize that it is not yet available,… Read more »

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Richmond could learn a thing or two from Henrico about how to respond in a professional and timely manner to requests like this.