Chicago, Big Servers, and AthenianRazak

In a recent article Chicago:  The City of Big Servers, by Urban Land, the author discusses how Chicago is re-purposing buildings from its industrial past to use as data centers.  This conversion trend and the city’s location have helped Chicago become the fifth-largest data center market in North America.  A main player in this trend is the Lakeside Technology Center at 350 East Cermak, a location often cited as the world’s largest data center. This 1.1 million sq ft multi-tenant data center hub is owned by Digital Realty Trust, who partnered with AthenianRazak to quickly build out five data centers in this historic building in five months. Not only did we help to complete the job on time, we also brought it in 8% under an aggressive budget.

Why Philadelphia Ain’t Detroit

In a recent article in The Philadelphia InquirerFailure to Adapt, Joel Naroff cautions how Philadelphia could succumb to a collapse similar to Detroit due to the trends of population loss in both cities and the overall cost of city services, and then proposes to “clear cut” areas of the City to pave the way for profitable redevelopment. There are so many problems with this argument that I am not sure where to begin, but let’s start with the logic of the suggestion itself: “Areas should be totally depopulated and the land banked. If large tracts of land can be amassed, commercial and industrial business can be attracted.”

This just doesn’t compute. If the goal is to not be Detroit and shrink our infrastructure to match our population, then for a “clear cut” to save money we will have to acquire the property and abandon it—cutting the cost of services like transit, police, garbage collection etc. The economics of suggesting that the City buy big tracts of land, demolish everything on it, stop providing services and then sell or lease it to companies “looking for urban locations” at a presumably lower cost than market (otherwise why do it) is laughable. Redeveloping those clear cuts will then require massive investment and huge expense for the first tenant to move in, and in the interim, the super blight created by a landbanked “clear cut” unsupported by City services will hardly help grow the City’s population.

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Alan Razak Visits Saudi Arabia to Teach Urban Land Institute Classes

In March 2013, AthenianRazak Principal Alan Razak visited Saudi Arabia for the second time this past year to teach a course for the Urban Land Institute (ULI).  As part of this most recent trip, Alan taught a three-day course to Kinan, a private Saudi real estate development company that is focused primarily on housing and retail development projects in several different cities in the KSA.  The class covered the fundamentals of real estate development including site selection, due diligence, market analysis, design and construction, finance and property management, among other topics.

As part of a previous trip with ULI in June 2012, Alan taught a course on managing design and construction from a developer’s point of view to Emaar, a Dubai-based private company that is leading the master-planning and development of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), an ambitious new city project in Rabigh, 100 km north of Jeddah.  KAEC is the largest and most diverse of four public/private new city projects being promoted by the Saudi government, encompassing massive amounts of new development on 173 square kilometers (66.8 sq mi) abutting the Red Sea. The KAEC project includes a port, industrial valley, educational zone, central business district with commercial, mixed-use, retail outlets and financial island, resorts and a residential area.  Alan’s course focused on construction development management in mature markets such as the U.S.

Alan is a sought-after thought leader in real estate and development management, teaching various courses for ULI both in the U.S. and abroad, including previous courses in Dubai.  He also consults on various types of real estate development projects.

Digital Realty to Host Open House at Data Center at 833 Chestnut Street

On April 11th from 11 am – 1 pm, Digital Realty will host an open house to invite guests to visit Philadelphia’s premier data center at 833 Chestnut Street.  The open house will feature a tour of the data center facilities, including the building’s co-location facility, and a lunch.

You can learn more about the data center at 833 Chestnut, managed by AthenianRazak, here.  The building features state-of-the-art data center design such as aisle containment systems for optimal operating environments and energy efficiency, and onsite support.  You can register here OR RSVP by emailing Mimi Nash, – attendees must be pre-registered.  We hope to see you there!

Chris Strom Moderates Panel at DatacenterDynamics Converged Conference

Chris Strom, AthenianRazak’s Director of Project Development, recently moderated a panel at the Datacenter Dynamics Converged Conference in New York City. This highly-regarded session on Regional Resiliency and Superstorm Sandy addressed the regional challenges faced by critical environments in the aftermath of Sandy and examined models for managing regional resilience in the future.
The diverse panel explored how data center users and operators are facing regional risk and provided their perspectives on urban risk and how municipalities are responding. Panelists included:

  • Paul Hines, Vice President, Data Center Operations & Engineering, Sentinel Data Centers
  • Robert Bianco, Vice President / General Manager, TW Telecom
  • Tokumbo Shobowale, Chief Business Operations Officer, City of New York

Increasingly businesses are looking not only at the resilience of their infrastructure, but also the resilience of their supply chain – seeking non-regional suppliers for Diesel fuel for example – and working with their teams to make sure they have good working relationships with key partners during a disaster. At the Municipal level, New York City is undertaking a comprehensive effort to improve the resiliency and recovery time of core infrastructure, and shaping a plan to be released later this spring on how NYC will address resiliency in general as well as the specific challenges posted by climate change.

This session was covered in an article by Data Center Knowledge, which summarized the core takeaway from the session, “Data center operators must expand the scope of their disaster plans to adapt to larger and more intense storms, weighing contingencies that previously seemed unlikely.”
The DatacenterDynamics Converged Conference attracted more than 1,500 participants including those responsible for the design, build and operation of IT facilities as well as key IT decision makers.

Chris Strom Joins AthenianRazak as Director of Project Development

AthenianRazak is excited to welcome Chris Strom to our team as the newest Delian! Chris will serve as our Director of Project Development with responsibility for data center client services, development financing, and project development.

Chris has more than two decades of experience in real estate and development specializing in complex technical buildings.  He has a unique skill set that encompasses real estate development, architectural design, and construction and financing strategies that position him as a creative solution provider. This unique combination of skills allows him to address mission critical development projects from a variety of perspectives, providing expert guidance to clients that results in comprehensive and viable project strategies.

He has worked on transactions worth more than $3 billion and has been on multiple sides of real estate deals. Prior to joining AthenianRazak, Chris led project development for some of the most innovative data center projects in North America.

You can read more about Chris and the AthenianRazak team here.  Just beware…Chris once operated a Nuclear reactor.

You can also click here to read the press release on Chris joining the AthenianRazak team.

Jackie Buhn Attends Counselors of Real Estate Conference in Miami

Jackie Buhn, Principal of AthenianRazak, recently attended the Counselors of Real Estate Conference from October 14 – 17, 2012 in Miami.  While at the conference, she attended a session on Evolving Land Use in Cities., moderated by Patrick O. Mayberry of CRE and included presentations by Genevieve Cadwalader of the Bristol Group and Kenneth Browne of Urban Development Partners.  The session described two largely private projects under construction that have broader implications for urban re-development.

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Michael Brookshier Appointed to Greenbuild 2013 Community Engagement & Social Networking Committee

Michael Brookshier, Senior Project Manager at AthenianRazak, was recently appointed to the Greenbuild 2013 Community Engagement & Social Networking Committee. The committee seeks to increase the region’s awareness of the conference and to promote Philadelphia’s profile as a global center of sustainability and cultural vibrancy.  The world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building, Greenbuild will be held in Philadelphia in November 2013.

Michael joins more than 150 volunteers from across the region who will be working with the Delaware Valley Green Building Council to make Greenbuild 2013 in Philadelphia a success. Click here ( for more information.


Alan Razak Teaches ULI Course on Construction Fundamentals

On October 3-4, AthenianRazak Principal Alan Razak, a thought leader in the construction field, was in Washington DC to teach an Urban Land Institute (ULI) class on understanding the ins and outs of the construction process. Even though construction is an integral (and risky) part of the real estate development process, it is often not well understood by real estate professionals. Alan’s course is designed to help developers and other real estate professionals gain proficiency in managing the complex construction process. You can find more details here (

Philadelphia’s Storm-Water Management Plan – Implications for Development

Like many older cities, Philadelphia has a combined sewer and storm water system that can dump sewage into waterways – in its case, over 60% of the system.  To meet state and federal clean water regulations, Philadelphia initiated plans starting in 1997 and culminating in the “Green City, Clean Waters” plan approved by the state in 2011. The plan includes code and water billing changes that improve water quality through retention and infiltration rather than through constructing parallel storm and sewer systems. The plan requires phased provision of 10,000 acres of new pervious surfaces at a cost projected to be $1.67 billion over the next 25 years – estimates for comparable installation of separated storm systems were “billions” higher. The driving force behind the plan was the simple economic fact that Philadelphia could not afford to build separated systems.  Plan requirements and their consequences include: