City Eyes Pruitt-Igoe for 3,000 National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Jobs

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As the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency begins its search for a new location for 3,000 jobs in the St. Louis area, nextSTL has learned that the City of St. Louis is pushing hard for a new facility to be built at the long vacant 34-acre Pruitt-Igoe site on the near north side.

Though not mentioned by name at the time, the recent city Board of Alderman marathon Ways & Means Committee alluded to the effort. According to nextSTL sources, the $25M sought by the Mayor’s office as part of that process was meant to complete neglected infrastructure such as sidewalks, streets, sewer, and electric work at and around the site in an attempt to keep the federal jobs in the city.

That allocation was the most contested issue at the recent committee meeting that stretched throughout an entire day. Depicted as a handout to McKee by some, others see the expenditure as a necessary investment in the Pruitt-Igoe site, and city even if the NGA passes on the site. The bill approved by committee reduced the amount for “Economic Development, Land Acquisition & Site Development” (the Pruitt-Igoe project) to $15M.

The federal government has reportedly shown an interest in the Pruitt-Igoe site, which has long been emblematic of failed federal housing policy. The vacant 34 acres would provide enough room to construct a secure facility for the organization that famously coordinated the search for Osama bin Laden and continues critical intelligence gathering work.

“The federal government created Pruitt Igoe,” Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff, told the Post-Dispatch. “This would be an elegant way for them to solve it.” The Pruitt-Igoe site is the only option being considered that would keep the 3,000 jobs in the City of St. Louis.

Developer Paul McKee, who owns nearly 2,000 parcels of land in the city, holds an option on the Pruitt-Igoe site. The city recently extended the option another year at no cost. The original option was for $100,000 and two years, with a final purchase price of $2,000,000 if a buyer could be found. That deal was part of the city’s sale of 132 total acres, and approximately 1,000 parcels to McKee in early 2012. While not completely clear, it appears that the bond issue would help pay for purchasing the site from McKee.

Also being considered is Scott Air Force base in the metro east in Illinois, seemingly a natural fit for the agency. The NGA will reportedly choose between six potential sites: Fenton Chrysler plant, Weldon Spring at I-64, Mehlville Met Life, Northpark in north St. Louis County, Scott AFB, and Pruitt-Igoe. Not timetable has been given for a decision, but it is expected to take up to two years. The south riverfront facility is scheduled to close no earlier than 2019.

The NGA is currently located on the south riverfront in the city’s Kosciusko neighborhood. The site has been a federal government installation as the federal arsenal was located here (hence Arsenal Street) at the outbreak of the Civil War. Nathaniel Lyons is credited with preventing a Confederate militia supported by then Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson from seizing the site. Adjacent Lyons Park was named in 1868, just seven years after his death, and is one of the oldest city parks.

NGA

Board Bill 12 current line item allocation:

BB12 allocation list

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  • DanieljSTL

    The statement, “The Pruitt-Igoe site is the only option being considered that would keep the 3,000 jobs in the City of St. Louis” seems like a pretty reasonable plan by the City, eh? Let’s only look at a neglected urban forest that would have to be completely redeveloped as opposed to re-purposing one of the many buildings in downtown STL with vacancy.

    Anyone want to bet against Weldon Springs or Scott AFB taking the 3,000 jobs?

    • Alex Ihnen

      I think to be fair, the city is responding to the NGA wishlist here. Perhaps the line should read that the Pruitt-Igoe site is the only option attractive at all to NGA in the city. And no, I won’t be betting against Scott AFB.

    • tpekren

      The Feds are setting the parameters so I think in all reality the PI site is one of the few fully intact parcels that the city can put front and center along with a single developer. Which gets to the city bond & transportation sales tax dollars on the ballot in addition to the TIF in place. The city could have some fire power to put behind developing the PI Site. To me, its a good plan by the city.

      • DanieljSTL

        Fair enough… Maybe I read into the statement a little too much. I emphasized “ONLY OPTION” as a bad thing, I guess…

  • tpekren

    Senator Durbin already quoting support for Scott AFB move. Once again, their is no regional togetherness and will continue to hurt the region competitively as a whole. Nothing like having politicians who think they grow the region by moving jobs already in the region. Consider it the Federal government version of the real estate TIF – First, GSA with its VA Admin move. So why not a bigger fish in the pond. Heck, why not add a Walmart to the development while were at it. Also, I can easily see the former IL Senator running the White House putting his two cent squarely for IL move.

    Outside of politicians, Unfortunately, you know where DOD/Air Force Brass at the Pentagon opinion will be with the ever increasing cybersecurity presence/detachments at the base itself. The more intelligence in their sphere of influence or the perception of being in their sphere because of close proximity the better.
    .
    One thing of note, I believe the Scott AFB site is actually outside the base itself as a greenfield development if not mistaken. Which is odd to me, what do you really gain in security if your outside of the base and to me makes the argument weaker for such a move.
    In other words, the list of six could easily be listed as the six developers as Alex noted, McKee has a option on the PI Site. Believe Clayco/McKee is/are the developers behind Northpark, Their is a developer behind the Fenton site, so on.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Hadn’t thought about it, but there will be some who absolutely do not think NGA should be located at an Air Force base. I guess being adjacent to an Air Force base would be more secure than further away, but the agency seems to have long been OK with their south riverfront location.

      • moe

        Well at the beginning, they were primarily just a mapping agency….common maps you and I could get easily. Their security maps were but a tiny segment of what they did. It’s only been in the past few decades, that the importance of high-security intelligence came into being that they became a secure facility.
        And depending on the conditions of the world today, their work can not be easily moved or put on hold when nature calls as they did in the great floods that we’ve had such as ’93. There was talk of them moving back then, I’m surprised that it’s taken them nearly 20 years to finally decide.

        • dempster holland

          The security thing is greatly overblown. The run of the mill city
          burgler would have an awfully hard time finding a ready market
          for whatever he may be able to steal. And how many thefts
          have occurred at the existing site? I would suspect none.
          As to floods, it would be a rather simple matter to simply
          move everything perishable to the second floor when necessary
          every forty or fifty years. Simply bring up a company or two from
          Ft Leonard Wood for a couple of days.
          There: I just saved the government tens of millions of dollars
          since they don’t need a new expensive facility

    • T-Leb
  • rgbose

    Seems to me that there’s plenty of parking lots to build a new building on at their present site.

    • dempster holland

      I had the same thought. Why not build a high rise or two at the existing
      site. Most of the workers at the facility have probably chosen their
      residence based on where they work, and moving the facility would
      cause them needless problems, For some reason the federal government
      seems to be leaving the city and close in suburbs–not a good idea

      • Alex Ihnen

        Hearing more about this, I’ll add that the current site a flood risk, with the 1993 flood coming close. It’s also an historic site and so the agency can’t just do whatever they want with it. Third, it’s immediately next to railroad tracks, posing a security risk. It still seems to me that the most secure place would be near Scott AFB, but I suppose any development with a decent amount of green space around it, and built in security would be about the same.

        • dempster holland

          The 1993 flood , the worst in recent memory, only came
          close. As to historic site, it is partly historic because the
          chart center (as it used to be called) is there. We are
          going to save the historic site by doing away with part of
          its history? As to security, being near a railroad, has not
          ever caused any problem as far as I know And having
          “green space” around is a suburban amenity I thought
          we were all supposed to be against.

          • STLEnginerd

            I think he is “against suburban development in the city which is why he suggested that ScottAFB might be the logical choice here.
            That is unless someone could orchestrate the grand daddy of all compromises and move GSA downtown and give NGA the GSA site in Overland. Really wish there was a way to make this happen…

          • Mac P.

            Green space is in regards to a security perimeter for force protection measures

          • Mac P.

            Green space is in regards to a security perimeter for force protection measures

    • Mac P.

      The site is a national historic site and cannot be demolished. Plus Where would people park while a building was being built for 2 years?

    • Mac P.

      The site is a national historic site and cannot be demolished. Plus Where would people park while a building was being built for 2 years?

  • moe

    I think the PI site would be a good fit. Excellent use of available land that would be securable plus keeping the jobs within the City. My second choice would be Scott AFB. I don’t blame Senator Durbin for supporting AFB. After all, it’s his job to support his community just as it is Slay’s to support the City.
    I do know that wherever it is chosen, there will be no attached retail that the common Joe can patronize. If built as is currently, it will be a very, very secure facility. For this reason, I think placing it in downtown proper is wrong and PI is as close as one can get giving downtown a chance to capture lunch/after work sales.
    I would however, be very disappointed to see this land anywhere in the County as per the list I saw on the news.

    • tpekren

      Moe, I think the St. Clair location is a greenfield site that is actually off the base and along I-64. In other words, another outlying office park looking for a big win via a Federal agency because an AFB might be successful within its boundaries but does little to attract private capital, jobs and growth (not counting fast food chains as economic development). To me it is the same old same old, lets build something new to move something already in the region to a field farther away from the core for a region that is not growing in GDP or population but yet has all the built infrastructure it has to maintain and support. The difference is a big political push on the Illini side of the river with a very big friend in the white house.
      .
      I honestly give more support to the other sites ion the county such NorthPark and Fenton because they at least utilitize a brownfield locations in part of the metro areas that took big hits during recession. Heck, Northpark has just as good transit/metrolink connection as the Scott Site. Where as Scott site is just the continued consolidation of Federal Funds/dollars in one location by Southern Illinois political machine. Now it is a full on play to grab the federal dollars away from the City next door.
      .
      Why not push something substantial for East St. Louis? It would be much more centrally located for current employees, have good transit access and desperately needs a shot in the arm. Why not push for a metrolink extension to SIUE/Edwardsville? Why not push for more Metro East industrial development that utilizes its strong connection to the river and pipeline connections to some of NA primary oil and gas fields? It worked for Wood River Refinery. Why not encourage the frame work for regulated fracking for Southern IL?
      I simply believe that Scott site would be worst outcome for the region as a whole and just reaffirms that political clout is what matters most in the region. IL political clout is not growing southern IL, it isn’t growing Metro East and now has decided that they best chance it has to save its one claim of success is this move.

      • moe

        Tp….I cannot support a place like Fenton just because they took a hit during the depression. Using that logic, PI should be top of the list as they have dragged down North City for decades.
        I do agree that ESL is untapped potential. However, the Security Agency is a special needs case. As I mentioned, there will be no retail on-site that you or I could utilize. Using PI puts it downtown, with current transportation utilized or easily adapted. I don’t think a Metro extension is just foreseeable in the near future. Not with infrastructure tax increases already on the way, one way or the other.
        I wont’ go into length on fracking except to say that it’s a mess who’s consequences have yet to be fully realized. Yes, I’m against it.

        • tpekren

          Certainly see your arguments against Fenton. I just don’t see why you think Scotts location is any better then what is being proposed in St Louis or St. Charles county. Personally, I think PI site is by far the best and would argue NorthPark as next.
          .
          As far my long winded comments, I think both MO and IL politicians have done a terrible job of putting in policies and investments in place that grow the region. For Metro East, it historically has been an industrial powerhouse along the river that succeeded in part to Southern Illinois energy resources. Look at what is being built and proposed downstream energy wise lately and you see a big hole where St. Louis is.

          • moe

            I think Scotts is better than many locations because it is now the military that uses the output from the NGIA or what was known as Defense Mapping. I’m for it if it is in close proximity or on the base. Building it out in a field with no actual connection to Scott…yes I would be against that. Perhaps I should have made that clearer.
            But the NGIA is not an industrial use so really we’re comparing apples to oranges when comparing them to Wood River refineries. I do agree that ESL (and really the entire East Side) has suffered from decades of political posturing at the expense of the poorest of the poor. This is perhaps Slay’s, prior mayors, Missouri politicians on both state and national level …. all that have treated this area as less than the poor backwards step-child and is their biggest mistake. But that’s a whole other discussion and let’s not get sidetracked.
            It seems that when it comes to security and military, the recent pushes (post 9/11) are to get them out into deserted areas. Whether that’s safer or not, I’m not to judge. But I’m surprised they don’t want to move it to BFEgypt.
            In closing, I just think that given the federal history of PI, this would be a perfect time for the Feds to correct this mess.

          • tpekren

            Moe, would have to agree on security issue if new facility was actually going to be located inside the base itself. But believe that is far from the case. As far as performing their function, they have been doing at current site as well as in Arnold for years. Proximity to base doesn’t mean anything in digital world.
            .

    • JohnThomas52

      Yeah, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, pizzeria, pharmacy, convenience stores will need to be built near the PI area to service the 3,000+ workers. That’s a lot of workers for 1 employer. Otherwise, these folks are stranded and will have to drive/walk into the interior of downtown just to get a coffee or to eat or grab a bottle of aspirin. That’s too much traffic. Better to have these service establishments near where they work in walking distance.

      • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ Kevin Barbeau

        Not really much near where they are now though — the excellent Riverbend and the new A-B Biergarten being the closest.

        If no commercial popped up there, who’s to say it will at Pruitt-Igoe…

        • Alex Ihnen

          Right. This is the situation in many places near downtown – Wells Fargo, Ameren, Nestle-Purina…none of these have much at all around them for employees. Compare that to the Proctor & Gamble offices in downtown Cincinnati and it’s easy to understand how important the difference really is for a city.

          • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ Kevin Barbeau

            Car culture, plain and simple. These companies (and agency) made a decision to make their offices a place to go to, rather than be at, if that makes sense.

            Hard to fault any of them for their decisions, really, based on the prevailing “attitude of the times” here and elsewhere. Now though, we’re now seeing the results…a de-centralized work force with what amounts to independent office parks around the periphery of the core city.

            How leadership continually refuses to adopt a form-based code — or at the very least, a developer’s guide which planners must at least reference/consider — continues to be a personal point of consternation.

          • moe

            Many of the examples you cite already have these services, but they are inside for their employee’s use. Cleaners, cafeteria, the list is quite long. And of course, it doesn’t help matters if many of the areas you cite have the land already tied up such as parking lots (Ameren, WF) or industrial such as the current Broadway site.
            And it’s not always about the direct money either. Getting 3,000 people to work in an area that they would previously write off as a ‘war-zone’ would have long-term, positive benefits region wide. But yes, we could hope for and push to have local businesses pop up on the perimeter.

    • STLEnginerd

      Personally, if you discount the impact on city revenues, I wouldn’t mind seeing the NGA move to Scott AFB or one of the county locations. A fortress built on the Pruitt Igoe site will only serve to enrich McKee, and maintain the current tax base. I doubt very much it will spur any economic developement in the area.

      That said losing approximately 3M in income tax revenues is too big a hit for the city to take. Consolidating GSA downtown would have been the ideal solution
      that maintained the tax base, improved the activity downtown, and allowed NGA to leave with marginal impact.

    • mpbaker22

      This is true, but I work in a guarded facility at a defense contractor in North County. We go outside the facility for lunch often (mostly because the cafeteria sucks!). It’s all about what’s available. I’m sure we would go out even more often if the closest fast food place wasn’t 4 miles away.

  • Bill Johnston

    If this Agency runs 24/7, I would think employee safety/security would be a major concern at the Pruitt Igoe site.

    • STLEnginerd

      Nonsense. This is going to be a completely secure facility with fencing a patroling guards monitoring the perimeter. Employee safety is only an in a vehicle. There is little to no danger inside a secure perimeter.
      That said because of the security requirements the desire to keep them in the city is solely about retaining a tax base and has nothing to do with “urbanity”. Retianing a tax base is important and a completely valid reason to argue they stay in the city, but call a spade a spade, and lets not delude ourselves as to what it would mean in terms of “activating” any particulatr section of the city.

      • Adam

        The only other advantage (besides taxes) to having it at PI would be that it might spur some residential/commercial development nearby to cater to the employees. I also don’t see crime as an issue. Like STLEnginerd said, the facility would be way too secure for petty criminals to get in. The facility might actually help to reduce crime in the area if there are security guards patrolling regularly and people coming and going. But, yeah, it’s certainly not going to be urban in form.

        • Bill Johnston

          Look, we’re not talking about personal safety while employees are at work, we’re talking about the surrounding area they have to drive thru to GET to work ! And if you are incapable of seeing crime as an issue, you are totally unfamiliar with the area.

          • STLEnginerd

            How familiar are you with the area? I assume you drove through there recently and were victim of a crime? That is unfortunate and I hope you get proper restitution.

          • Bill Johnston

            Moot point, PI doesn’t have enough acreage to fill the stated needs requiring a sizeable buffer zone. End of discussion. Oh, and I’m very familiar with the area. One of the things the St. Stan’s Parishioners had to constantly do was repair the numerous bullet holes in their roof that I admit probably happened when PI was still in existence.

          • Alex Ihnen

            FWIW – the city’s working very hard at bending some of the NGA’s stated requirements. They’re trying everything they can, so we’ll see.

          • Bill Johnston

            Let us hope the facility stays on the West side of the River and Dicky Durbin doesn’t get his way.

          • Adam

            Bill, I’d wager I’m at least as familiar with the area as you are. I don’t think crime would be a significant issue, and I think the additional activity in the area would reduce whatever crime there is. Sorry, but we disagree. Try to stay calm.

          • Alex Ihnen

            The reality is that there isn’t much crime in this area, of course there’s not much in the area. In terms of crime, the more dangerous areas aren’t the empty ones.

          • Wayne

            This is right. The southwestern part of St. Louis Place is (sadly) almost entirely empty and there’s not really a lot going on in the southern reaches of JeffVanderLou, either. This isn’t an area where you see a lot of people walking around or hanging out. In addition, there’s a police station on Jefferson between Cole and MLK (just south of the site).

          • dempster holland

            Actually, if you come from the south you only have 5 to 8 blocks
            on Jefferson, a four lane street with mostly business or institutional uses

        • Mac P.

          What about concerns that it would be a giant, highly visible target when a group decides to riot?

        • Mac P.

          What about concerns that it would be a giant, highly visible target when a group decides to riot?

      • Bill Johnston

        Oh yeah ? Might be a “secure facility” @ PI but employees still have to drive, bus or walk there. What about that or are you capable of thinking beyond the end of your nose ? You’re the short-sighted person spouting “nonsense”.

        • STLEnginerd

          I am only capable of seeing things that are real, not ghosts and boogie-men.

          Nearly everyone who works here will drive and they will either eat in a cafeteria or bring their lunch. So they are in their cars until they get inside security perimeter and leave in their cars. This is the case no matter where it is located because it is going to effectively be a fortress.

          Even if they rode a bus they would be dropped off at the front gate where there WILL be security there, and as far as I know crime on metrobuses is fairly rare.

          If they walked or biked to work at midnight, a very unlikely scenario but i’ll humor you, they would probably be at higher risk. But if you think about it that would be a non-option at almost any other proposed location so it still kind of a wash.

          Lastly North St. Louis despite your fear mongering isn’t exactly a warzone, even if it looks like one sometimes due to wide scale poverty and abandonment. The situation is exacerbated, and perpetuated by people exagerating the “dangers” of going there or building businesses there. Would it be a plesant scenic drive to work, not likely, but would it be inherently dangerous… not really.

          I am not sure i think NGA should be at Pruitt Igoe for a number of reasons I’ve stated, but dredging up crime as a factor is a red herring. Crime on the Northside would NOT impact this facility in any meaningful way.

          • Bill Johnston

            ” Crime on the Northside would NOT impact this facility in any meaningful way”…… ROTFLMAO ! That’s just about the same B.S. propaganda A-B mgmt. fed us when they re-located us to One Shitty Centre. Five years later, and after several “incidents”, they threw in the towel and moved us to Sunset Hills where there were no further “incidents” and employees could feel secure about their persons and vehicles. Anyone contesting a post commenting about crime-ridden North St. Louis means you’re either a highly naïve person, you have no clue about area crime or you’re trolling for some financial interest. WISE UP !

          • STLEnginerd

            Your examples are decades old and are not in reference to high security facilities. I wonder what relevance they have?

            I am NOT naive crime in the near north is a serious problem. Anything BUT a high security facility would be impacted by local crime. The NGA is going to build a fortress, The parking lot would be completely enclosed, have controlled access points with guards and tons of video surveillance. Just what kind of incidents are you predicting happening under all that scrutiny.

            I have no financial interest in the Northside and am not particularly fond of McKee’s plan or execution so far. What are your interests in preventing stabilization of North city. I could dream up some arbitrary reason you feel the need highlight negative aspects based on experience that is apparently decades old. Perhaps you feel the need to foster old fear to prop up the value of the aging house you bought decades ago in some far flung suburban enclave. Such speculation is irrelevant. My point stands on its own merit independent of my financial interest… Does yours?

            Simpling dismissing me as clueless is not a rational arguement and suggests to me that the basis of your belief has very little to do with any actual knowledge.

          • Bill Johnston

            “Decades Old ” ? There you go again. Pull up the latest crime/location statistics for the area then issue a retraction. You are incapable, despite several clearly stated attempts, at understanding the safety concerns are for those times when employees are traveling to and from the job-site. Now come on, I know you will always, unfailingly try to have the last word…we’re waiting……..

          • Alex Ihnen

            This kind of unproductive back and forth is pointless. If you’re so inclined, you can continue on Facebook, or find a Post-Dispatch comment section.

  • Alex Ihnen

    The NGA has just posted a public notice asking for additional proposals. The listing states they require 50 unencumbered acres, 35 buildable acres, and a minimum 500ft setback. If they stick anywhere close to those requirements, it’s not going up at Pruitt-Igoe.

  • Alex Ihnen

    The NGA has just posted a public notice asking for additional proposals. The listing states they require 50 unencumbered acres, 35 buildable acres, and a minimum 500ft setback. If they stick anywhere close to those requirements, it’s not going up at Pruitt-Igoe.

    • dempster holland

      This request for proposals was probably developed by some middle-level
      bureaucrats in Washington, and should,not be considered to be Holy Writ.
      Our local government and Congressmen should, if they can reach a con-
      census, attempt to change the proposal to allow a site in the city, either
      at the existing site or one of the alternate sites mentioned here

  • moe

    I’m going to amend my prior post regarding the suitability of the PI site. Today I was in downtown and I don’t know why, but I thought of this thread…and it dawned on me that there is now already a secure building with plenty of parking space available downtown. The old Police Headquarters. Built like a ……brickhouse. It’s going to need to be renovated for whoever goes in there anyway. And it was a police station….already has parking, already is built to be secure and controlled entry, already in the City…..This would be a great site in my opinion.

    • Mac P.

      That would not hold 3ooo jobs

    • Mac P.

      That would not hold 3ooo jobs

  • John R

    If things break the right way we might be calling the stretch of Jefferson between Market and Cass the “Miracle Mile.”
    Imagine a decade from now (the new spy facility wouldn’t be ready until early 2020s) thousands of new jobs not just at the P-I site, but all along the Jefferson Mile. With continued growth of Wells-Fargo Advisors — perhaps even with new office construction — and a new 22nd Street Interchange spurring more mixed-use office and residential, the area between Washington and Market might even become something of a mini-financial district. What is a rather sleepy area now very well may be a much more dense, bustling distict by 2020.