Founded in 1994, Opus Interactive provides cloud hosting, managed services and colocation from Tier III data centers in Portland Oregon, Hillsboro Oregon, Santa Clara California, and Dallas Texas. Through close partnerships with industry-leaders and a commitment to customer satisfaction, the company has earned a reputation for building customized solutions that fit the unique equipment, scalability, budget, and growth needs of its customers.
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Data Center Resurrected in Downtown Brewery Blocks
Posted on August 22, 2012
August 22, 2012 – The national economy is still dragging. Oregon’s unemployment rate is up to 8.7 percent.
And the Portland housing market is slumping again.
But Eric Hulbert sounds like the dotcom boom is beginning all over again.
Hulbert is chief executive officer of Opus Interactive, a data center looking for new clients. He is leasing
space for search engine, social media and other Internet-reliant telecommunication companies.
“The economy is picking up and businesses are deciding that if they want to grow with it, they need to make
some decisions now about who is providing services for them — their own in-house IT (information
technology) departments, which are expensive, or someone like us, who can do the same thing for less,”
Hulbert is not alone is saying the demand for data centers is growing. The Wall Street Journal reported Aug.
16 that the Silicon Valley and other tech centers in California are booming again. Big companies like Apple,
Google and Facebook are in the news for planning additional large facilities in Central Oregon. And three
new data centers are in the works in Hillsboro.
But Hulbert’s facilities are in downtown Portland, on the third and fourth floors of a building in the Brewery
Blocks, the five-block redevelopment project by Gerding Edlen development company that began in the
That doesn’t mean Opus Interactive is thinking small, however. The two floors include 40,000 square feet of
hosting space. Hulbert said when it is fully occupied with racks of servers and related equipment, the center
will consume enough electricity to power up to 150,000 homes.
“That’s a lot of power, it really is,” Hulbert said during a tour of the center last week.
In fact, the two floors were originally designed to be a data center. They sat largely empty after the first dot-
com bubble burst just as the project was completed. Hulbert is convinced the time is right to make them
work like they were intended.
“Part of the fun of this is finishing a project that was started over 10 years ago,” he said.
Massive electrical cables
Most Brewery Block residents, business owners, workers and visitors probably have no idea that a data
center was planned for the building at the corner of Burnside Street and Northwest 12th Avenue. Today, it
is best known as the home of the Whole Foods grocery store, which occupies most of the first floor and has
its main entrances along Northwest Couch Street.
Built as the A.B. Smith Automotive Building, it housed a Chevrolet dealership until the Henry Weinhard
Brewery across the street bought it for warehouse space. After Gerding Edlen bought it for the project, the
developer was approached by TyCom Inc., a large telecommunications company that was interested in
using two floors for a data center.
With that in mind, the building was gutted, then rebuilt within the three-story faÃ§ade to meet the highest
seismic standards. Massive electrical cables were run into the building to provide both AC and DC power. A
chilled water plant was built on the roof to serve the development — including the data center — and other
buildings in the area. Diesel-powered generators were installed on the roof to provide emergency electricity
in case of power failure.
But TyCom never finished the data center after the building opened in 2002. It only landed a handful of
clients, including a search engine company and a social media company, before the dot-com bubble burst
and telecommunication companies began collapsing. TyCom eventually sold its telecommunication unit,
including the data center, to Tata Communication, a global telecommunications company. The India-based
giant did not finish the center either.
Meanwhile, Opus Interactive needed more space. It started in a Northwest Industrial District building with
just 1,000 square feet of space. Hulbert knew how the Brewery Block building was designed because he
attended the opening ceremony. So after Tata acquired it, he put together a plan to sublease the space and
began calling company officials in India.
“A big company like that is too busy for someone like me, so I just kept calling every day and leaving
messages on different answering machines. Eventually someone finally called back and said, ‘What can we
do to get rid of you?’ I said, ‘Come out to Portland and listen to my proposal.’ They did, and we were able to
come to an agreement,” Hulbert said.
For now, Hulbert is working to lease the finished rooms on the third floor, which are already equipped with
air conditioners, fire suppression systems and redundant electricity sources. The next step will be to
complete the unfinished fourth floor.
Active street life
Many of the key features of the Brewery Block building are clearly visible from surrounding streets,
including exterior steel beams and large cooling towers on the roof. The front door, next to a vacant retail
space, looks like the entrance to any other office building, however.
“I call it security by obscurity,” Hulbert said.
There are several other data centers inside the city limits. Some are based in the Pittock Block, a building
occupying a city block between Southwest Stark and Washington streets, and Southwest Ninth and 10th
The one in the Brewery Block building is different from those that sprung up in town during the original
dot-com boom, however. At the time, they were called “telco hotels.” Some went into vacant buildings and
warehouses in the Pearl District and along the Portland Streetcar line. The windows were sealed for security
reasons, making the buildings look empty from the outside.
Portland’s City Council was concerned this was counter to the active street life it hoped the streetcar line
would encourage. Several ideas were discussed, including a proposal from former Commissioner Erik Sten
to encourage them to locate in the Northwest Industrial District. In December 2000, the council directed the
Bureau of Planning to initiate a project to limit their impacts in parts of downtown and Northwest Portland.
In May 2001, the council adopted a requirement that new data centers use half of their buildings for
housing, retail stores or office space.
Although the Brewery Block redevelopment project was well under way by then, the building that houses
the data center was already designed to largely meet the new standard. In addition to the entrances on
Couch, Whole Foods has a coffee shop that can be entered from Burnside. It’s unlikely that most customers
have any idea there’s a growing data center over their heads.
Portland Tribune Article
Published on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 in Portland Tribune. | Written by Jim Redden.
About Opus Interactive
Founded in 1994, Opus Interactive provides cloud hosting, managed services and colocation from Tier III+
data centers in Portland Oregon, Hillsboro Oregon, Santa Clara California, and Dallas Texas. Through close
partnerships with industry-leaders and a commitment to customer satisfaction, the company has earned a
reputation for building customized solutions that fit the unique equipment, scalability, budget, and growth
needs of its customers.
The company is an accredited member of the International Managed Services Provider Alliance and is
PCI/HIPAA compliant and SSAE16 Type II audited.
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About Opus Interactive
Founded in 1994, Opus Interactive
provides cloud hosting, managed
services and colocation from Tier
III+ data centers. Through close
partnerships with industry leaders,
and a commitment to customer
satisfaction, the company has
earned a reputation for building
and managing customized, reliable
hosting solutions that fit the needs
of its customers.
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