Faced with the prospect of tens of millions of idle retail square footage from closures and relocations, Sears Holdings has generated a new division to market closed Sears and Kmart stores as a home for data centers, wireless tower locations, and disaster recovery locations. The new initiative leverages the nearly seventy percent of US citizens that live within 10 miles of a Sears or Kmart location to make the locations appealing to big data, wireless carriers, and industry.
"It's an amazing real estate portfolio," said Sears Holdings' Ubiquity Critical Environments
Chief Operating Officer Sean Farney. "The goal is not to sell off properties. It's to reposition the assets of this iconic brand. The big idea is that you have a technology platform laid atop a retail footprint, creating the possibility for a product with a very different look to it."
The first repurposing effort is an ex-Sears location on the south side of Chicago. The 127,000 square foot location closes in June, and will be built out after closing as a data center. The first client has committed to the location. "It's a building that's lit very well, from both a fiber and power perspective," said Farney. "It's going to be great data center building." The location being repurposed can utilize up to 5 MW of power.
"There are compelling reasons why this is a great model," explained the CEO. "The customer has evolved to the point where they want a sexier location, where they can have access to a Starbucks and other retail, because it's possible they may be there for weeks or months. Sears and Kmart stores are located in just such retail locations in major malls."
Ubiquity is looking at renting rooftops to cell providers for towers and other broadcast hardware, given the proximity of the locations to dense residential areas. "These rooftops have proximity to the greatest mass of consumers available. As wireless users grow, the size of the cell is shrinking, creating holes in coverage. Having rooftop access to the cars and pedestrians around the malls is important. The Sears portfolio can capture that."