It looks like a normal enough house from the outside. Maybe a little big when compared to other properties in its Far North Dallas neighborhood. It gets stranger the farther you scroll down the listing, which this week caught the attention of Zillow Gone Wild, an Instagram account chronicling eye-popping real estate listings around the country.
Zero beds, one bath. Square feet: 5,768. Listing price: $989,000. In a residential neighborhood where most of the homes range between 1,200 and 2,500 square feet, respectively, with listings in the range of $350,000.
You look at the photos of the interior—of large fluorescent-lit spaces that call to mind dull corporate offices, chemical laboratories, and county jails—and only feel more confused. What exactly is this facility doing here, looking from the outside like every other generic two-story house in suburban Dallas?
The description on the Zillow listing doesn’t exactly clear things up:
A property unlike any other! With walls, flooring, and ceiling made of concrete, this property can serve as the perfect storage spot for large wine collections, art collections, multiple cars, as well as serving as the ultimate safe house. The building is connected to two electrical grids and also features a natural gas generator that has is powered by two diesel fuel tanks in the event of a natural gas failure, making the chance of power loss a very rare. With office space as well as warehouse space and large outdoor area, there are many ways this property can be utilized.
I couldn’t get the property’s real estate agent to pick up the phone. The owner, who runs an outfit that leases commercial space in the Dallas area, didn’t return a voicemail.
But the owner’s listing offering to lease the building sheds a little light on the situation, calling it a “Former AT&T Data Center House.” Tax records show AT&T owned the property until 2011. The “for lease” listing also says the property can “only be used as a Data House,” so you may have to temper those dreams of stashing your wine collection or multiple cars here.
I asked AT&T about it. The company says:
This facility was built as a potential network site by a company we acquired. It was never used and was sold years ago.
The sleuths on a Reddit thread asking the pertinent question—“Wtf is up with this bizarre compound in a residential neighborhood”—note that there’s a similar-looking building across the alley. No tantalizing photos in an online real estate listing, but it’s also conspicuously large for the neighborhood. Tax records show AT&T still owns this one.
So what is up with this bizarre compound in a residential neighborhood? The answer is probably less interesting than some of the theories I’ve seen bandied about online, “supervillain lair” being my favorite. Our hyper-connected world and all our information technology requires physical infrastructure. Data centers and servers and hardware have to go somewhere. If for whatever reason they have to go in a residential neighborhood, might as well disguise the facility as a house. While this is not an especially good-looking house, it’s less of an eyesore than say, this windowless fortress in Old East Dallas that is also used for telecommunications.
And if you are a supervillain looking for a new lair in a hot market, you could do worse than this.