Enter the Matrix: High-Tech, High-Rise Data Farm Puts Down Roots in Lower Manhattan

But does it compute?

If Mr. Sabey’s sunny demeanor wasn’t enough of a clue, it’s easy to tell he’s from out of town by the way he often refers to Manhattan simply as “the island.” He grew up in Washington State and attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship. When he met with The Observer, he walked with a cane and a heavy limp, the result of a recent hip replacement—a relic, he said, of his days playing on the defensive line.

“I look at those guys beating each other up, and I look at my hip and I think, God what was I thinking?”

Starting with modest real estate investments beginning in the 1970s, he eventually switched his focus to building and managing data centers, growing his firm, Sabey Corporation, into a $400 million company. He lives in Seattle and has a ranch in Montana where he tends prize cattle.

“We have the best Black Angus cattle in the world,” he said. He proudly states that he buys his genetically engineered alfalfa seed from the agricultural giant Monsanto.

“I believe in science,” Mr. Sabey explained.

Whatever the energy costs, then, he insists that his data center will be a net positive.

“Take the pulp and paper industry: it’s the third-largest polluter of air and water and the fifth-largest consumer of energy,” he noted. “Data permits us to get our print media on a Kindle or an iPad. The distribution of physical paper uses an incredible amount of energy compared to getting things online. Think of all the energy online shopping saves rather than everyone getting in their car and driving to the mall. I was raised in a family that didn’t have any money; we learned early on, if you left the light on, you were in trouble.”