With little fanfare, Intermountain Healthcare has apparently purchased the empty Sears building in downtown Salt Lake City.

At least that's the word according to news reports published recently by several Utah-based mainstream media organizations, including KSL-TV, KSTU-TV, and KUTV, among others.

The statement provided by Intermountain reads:

As part of our ongoing commitment to serve patients with high-quality, affordable, and accessible care, Intermountain Healthcare has acquired property in downtown Salt Lake City for future use to enhance healthcare services available to area residents. Plans are still being developed. Details will be announced at a future date.

Beyond this, Intermountain has not shared additional details. At least so far, nor do I expect it to do so in the immediate future.


Just the Building? Or the Entire Block?

What is interesting, however, is that one Utah-based publisher, Building Salt Lake, has reported that Intermountain purchased not just the empty Sears building, but the entire block where the building is located.

Curiously, the term "property" in the Intermountain statement above is generic and flexible enough that it can be used to refer to

  1. Land,
  2. A building (or buildings, plural), or
  3. All of the above.

In that regard, I suspect the statement was written to be vague on purpose.

But whether Intermountain purchased all eight acres of the Sears block or not does not matter to me.

My bigger question is whether or not Intermountain can put the Sears building to good use with minimal changes, as is.

And I think the answer is Yes, if it were to transform the existing building into a centralized data center, which is probably not as crazy as it may sound.


The Downtown University of Utah Data Center Just Two Blocks Away

As it turns out, the University of Utah has been running a downtown data center in Salt Lake City for nearly a decade.

I know because I had an in-depth tour of the building back in 2014.

{NOTE: To learn more about the UofU's downtown SLC data center, check out this write-up by the University Information Technology.}

Google Earth overhead image of the 4-block area in Salt Lake City of West Temple to State Street and 700 South to 900 South. Image downloaded 2 January 2022.

Housed within the former home of a Swire Coca-Cola bottling plant in a nondescript, 79,000-square-foot red brick building on West Temple between 800 and 900 South, this University Information Technology gem happens to be located within a stone's throw of one of the biggest telecommunications pipelines throughout Utah.

As shown in the image above, the former Sears building is literally less than 2 blocks away from the University's data center.

By extension, that means the former Sears building is quite close to said telecommunications pipeline as well.

I suspect that should it decide to do so, Intermountain would likely have to retrofit the Sears building to transform it into a state-of-the-art data center, work that would probably include earthquake-proofing the building (which is what the University had to do before it set-up data center operations in its downtown building).

But it would not be impossible. And by my estimation, such efforts would probably be completed before the start to 2023.

If, in fact, Intermountain did purchase the entire Sears block (as reported by Building Salt Lake), work on building healthcare facilities on the rest of the block could begin independent of any work on the Sears building itself.

But in reality, building and staffing a new hospital in downtown Salt Lake City is probably a 2-to-3–year project, at best, perhaps longer.

So in my mind, my bet is on Intermountain putting a data center into the vacant Sears building.

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