For more than 80 years, a coal-fired power plant operated in the city of Hammond, Indiana. But when the State Line Generating Plant shut down in 2012, the city lost its biggest taxpayer.

“So that was a big deal when it decided to close,” says Dave Ryan, executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce in Hammond.

He says the closure also left behind a giant building that had to be taken down and a massive pile of coal.

“It’s just sitting there, 100 feet high and 100 feet deep in a hole,” Ryan says. “So that all had to be remediated.”

But the city was convinced that the site had potential. It’s close to Chicago and located on Lake Michigan. Developers agreed and used the site to build a new data center called Digital Crossroad.

To build the facility, they recycled some asphalt and concrete from the original plant. Solar panels will help create electricity.

For the city of Hammond, the data center helps provide a new tax base.

“What was going to be just an environmentally disastrous site, you know, with a huge coal pile sitting in the middle of it, has now been turned into a beautiful data center,” Ryan says. “And now what was a basket of lemons is now lemonade for the city of Hammond.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.