City Set to Offer Pruitt-Igoe and Additional 22 City Blocks to Keep 3,000 NGA Jobs

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When nextSTL learned that Pruitt-Igoe was one of six sites in the St. Louis area being considered for building a new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency it kind of made sense. The 34-acre site has been vacant for decades and is much larger than the current NGA home at the historic arsenal on the south riverfront.

The idea that the federal government would redevelop the site that has been synonymous with failed federal government housing policy for half a century even has some almost poetic appeal. But publicly, the NGA has stated that they’re seeking 50 unencumbered acres, 35 buildable acres, and a minimum 500ft setback.

This seemed to rule out Pruitt-Igoe, or at least make it a long shot, requiring the NGA to compromise on its wishlist. Even adding some adjacent land within the NorthSide Regeneration footprint, it seemed a challenge to get to 50 acres and accommodate a significant setback.

As nextSTL noted, the effort by the Mayor’s office to insert $25M into a possible city bond issue for infrastructure improvements near the site was targeted at keeping the NGA jobs in the city. A Post-Dispatch editorial (Pruitt-Igoe is the only site for geospatial agency relocation) went heavy for the idea.

That editorial read in part: “The jobs can’t leave the city of St. Louis. The Pruitt-Igoe site, in the center of the NorthSide Regeneration project that is the dream of developer Paul McKee, is the only choice. “We have to make it really hard for them to go someplace else,” said Mayor Francis Slay this week, in a meeting with the Post-Dispatch editorial board.” The paper’s support appears premised, in various ways, on the idea that 3,000 NGA jobs staying in the city is what’s best for St. Louis and the region.

This still didn’t seem to altogether make sense, until nextSTL learned the extent of the site the city is willing to offer the NGA. The proposed site plan obtained by this site shows approximately 22 city blocks, or 88 acres added to the existing 34 acres at Pruitt-Igoe.

The additional land is north of the Pruitt-Igoe site and bordered by Jefferson, Parnell, the alley just south of St. Louis Avenue, and 22nd Street. Clearly the 122-acre site could easily accommodate the NGA and its requirements. For reference, the St. Louis University Frost Campus bounded by Vandeventer, Forest Park, Lindell and Compton is approximately the same size. It’s unclear if Cass Avenue adjacent to the Pruitt-Igoe site would remain open, but it is obvious that many city streets would be removed. The secure site would be ringed with a substantial security fence and 24-hour high level security.

In a city built prior to the arrival of the automobile, such a project would erase the past and present an entirely new development pattern, one nearly four times larger than Pruitt-Igoe itself, the failure of which has been often cited as being too monolithic. While covering perhaps the most vacant portion of NorthSide, images show a couple dozen homes, and several businesses currently occupy the site. Developer Paul Mckee (NorthSide) owns the majority of parcels needed for the project, but not all.

Returning to the P-D editorial, “The implosion of the Pruitt-Igoe experiment more than 40 years ago was due in part to a failure of local, state and federal officials to develop sound policy that worked together, in terms of community building and serving the poor. Today more than ever, the mostly poor, mostly African-American north side of St. Louis needs investment more than any other area of the St. Louis region. More than Fenton. More than Scott. More than the central corridor.”

Tough questions remain, and a discussion about not just Pruitt-Igoe and its many faceted economic and cultural legacies, but of larger city development, is just beginning. How hard should the city fight to keep the 3,000 NGA jobs within the city limits? At what cost? Will eminent domain be used? Is the proposed site plan an appropriate development for the city? How would the NGA project affect development across the remainder of the NorthSide project?

NorthSide - McKee land{McKee owned lots in blue, proposed NGA site in yellow, Pruitt-Igoe at bottom}

NGA northside2{the NGA site (in yellow) would occupy a large central portion of the 1,500-acre NorthSide Regeneration development area (in red)}

About the NGA: “NGA provides timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security,” says the agency’s website. This is the group that tracked Osama bin Laden to a home in Pakistan. They do a thousand other things as well: track missile launches, ship movements, and much more. Currently housed in several buildings at the site of the Historic St. Louis arsenal, the agency is seeking space to build new, farther from the river and railroad tracks.

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  • Adrienne

    My family’s very well maintained, very large, most original home of 60+ years sits smack in the middle of that yellow box! Granted it I close to the only home left on that block, but my grandparents and great aunt raised a total of 13 children in that house. My 80 year old cousin still lives there. I was just tree two weeks ago. That house has provided a loving home for multiple generations of my family and thought of imminent domain snatching it from us and demolishing it is heart wrenching! That house is an institution in my family and worth more that any developers would ever offer based on property value. We are aware of not only what original hardwood floors, woodwork, wrought iron and stained glass are worth, but what our family’s HOME is worth to each of us.

    • Adrienne

      And passionate late night posts from my phone create massive typos…

    • Mike F

      Your comment–with which I agree 100%–brings to mind the old saying: A bank(s)ter knows the cost of everything, and the value of nothing.

      And to my mind, this is one of the greatest underlying problems in American society, that we judge everything–from bolts on a machine to the lives of human beings–based on an arbitrary and false “value” set upon it in a market which is essentially rigged. Everything becomes a commodity, and that which has limited value to society–or, the market–immediately loses any utility, no matter who the person may be, or what that object is.

      Rather sick, really. What next, the second coming of eugenics?

  • kjohnson04

    No, no, no. This is silly City behavior once again. “We’ll give you anything you want, just don’t leave.” That’s not a solid plan for growing a city. Haven’t we done enough neighborhood destroying here? The land the city is willing to give away could potentially generate and keep thousands of jobs and attract tens of thousands of residents. Tell NGA, you can have the Pruitt-Igoe site if you must, but the setbacks are step to far. If that’s a dealbreaker, send then them to Northpark or Chesterfield. It’s not that important. I’m inclined to think at this stage moving it to Scott makes more sense.

  • Murphy Lee

    I think a lot of you are being unrealistically optimistic and presenting what are in all likelihood false choices. Of course we’d all prefer this area to be redeveloped with an urban-form residential-commercial mixture, but does that really strike anyone as likely? This is a part of town that has done nothing but bleed residents and let building stock deteriorate for decades upon decades. McKee promises or no McKee promises, I don’t see much in the way of signs of that changing. The real choice here is this facility, with its various pros and cons, or an indefinite extension of the current state of affairs while we keep our fingers crossed for someone better to be willing to make a huge investment in one of the most undesirable parts of a city with no shortage of areas prime for reinvestment. It could happen, yes, but if the facility is built elsewhere, I’d put good money on this area still being essentially in its current state (if not worse) 20 years from now. To me this is a case where we have to pick our battles and realize that the entire city is never going to look like our conception of good urban form, and that for some areas, practically any development that comes with this proposal’s likely stability should be welcomed.

    • John R

      I’m guilty of optimism; but I truly believe that good things can be in store if we get things right. In fact, I think it is relatively easy to get decent infill from Jefferson/Parnell to the more established 20th Street area. There’s been plenty of significant infill projects in the Near North in the past decade or two and the only question in my mind for this area north of P-I site is how much would be along the lines of mixed-use/mixed-income projects like the North Sarah phases in Vandeventer and how much would be single-family. (Ideally more UIC-like than McBride-like.)
      If we can land a quality project at the P-I site, enhance transit and streetscaping, and bring in some neighborhood builders like McCormack Baron and UIC I think the future for Saint Louis Place is bright.

      • Stefene

        Agreed! UIC is a fantastic model. Also Richard Baron’s Brewery complex – that went in decades ago, still looks great, from what I can tell (this is also on word of a neighbor who lived there in the late 90s) also great as a place to live. There is some suburbanish infill in there, too, which isn’t great from an urbanist aesthetic standpoint, but I know people who live on those blocks and the social cohesion is very strong and very positive; they are happy there, for the most part. I would also add that there are layers of history and social stuff that would be horrible to lose if these blocks are wiped off the earth. There is an annual 4th of July progressive bbq on Mullanphy that essentially serves as a “homecoming” for people who used to live in the neighborhood, including in Pruitt-Igoe. People who are pessimistic about this area should drive down Cherokee and then compare that in their mind to what it was five, ten years ago, then walk or bike these blocks with me (or someone else who lives around here) and just look at who and what is there. I think they would be surprised and might change their minds. I live in ONSL right now, and honestly the building stock’s way less intact -and yet it’s cited as an urban redevelopment success around the world – nationally and internationally. I love Old North, and it IS special, but so is St. Louis Place – it just needs its story told, plus maybe a unifying org like UIC or ONSLRG to support and work hand-in-hand with residents, as well as incubate ideas like the farmer’s market and all the arts orgs on 14th.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I don’t know…optimism maybe, but right now that looks like a Walmart, fast food and some more MBS mixed-income infill. If that’s the crazy optimism that’s considered out of reach for St. Louis, we’re screwed.

  • Stefene

    I know families who live over here, families who have been here for three generations, whose only wealth is in their houses. If they get eminent domained, they will lose everything. So, I am not concerned about the design so much, more about the human beings. No one in this neighborhood is going to be working at the NGA. I know more than one person who works at the mapping agency, I know what their hiring protocols are, and they’re pretty much going to be lifting people from place A to place B. And in the meantime, a lot of families are going to suffer financial and quality of life losses that they may never recover from. Sure, it may just be 10 or 12 families, but to my mind that’s enough. Sorry for the rant, but the human cost really is something that should be considered here too.

    • Alex Ihnen

      While I think it should be every individual’s right to choose to stay in their home, if, as you say, residents here have their entire wealth in their homes and say they’re offered 2x market value plus $50K (total hypothetical), wouldn’t that be a beneficial financial outcome?

      • Stefene

        That would be better than what I would suspect they’d be offered for their homes – typically what people get is not great in an eminent domain situation, but of course it’s totally theoretical at this point. Though I would say it is not all about the money, either. I think erasing neighborhoods with three generations of history is tragic, especially if people want to stay and yet have no chance of having even a whisper of a say in the matter. But if all they can get is the money and they have no choice, getting more than what their home is worth is better than watching them get screwed over. But I still think there are options, ideally ones that would not force people out of their homes against their will.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Right. That hypothetical is very near what residents were offered in Richmond Heights to make way for an IKEA. One person still said “no” and RH decided to not use eminent domain.

          • Stefene

            But that’s Richmond Heights – from what I have seen in my 10 years here, it’s a totally different ball game in the City of St. Louis. (Or on parcels of land the city owns, for instance around the airport, as certain former North County residents can attest.) Also, not sure that on average these situations turn out nearly so positively. If this is what comes down, I hope to god they do get decently compensated. As for staying – I know for a fact that is much more complicated than it sounds, and it often requires the help of an attorney, which a lot of these families may not be able to afford. And being displaced, being forced to pull up roots from a place that you’ve lived all your life has consequences other than financial. It’s traumatic for people. I’m also really not convinced that a mammoth federal facility is a wonderful fit for what is essentially a residential area. I was not thrilled by the rumor of a SuperTarget being built on the Pruitt-Igoe site, but it would serve the neighborhood far better than a sprawling, high-security gov’t complex.

          • matimal

            Such purely defensive approaches are what made St. Louis what it is. If there is no vision of what can be, only a defense of what is, St. Louis is doomed.

          • Stefene

            Matimal: in all of these comments, my goal was not to be combative or defensive, but to speak to the human aspect of all this – I feel like that often gets glossed over in discussions about development, architecture, and design, is all. Also, I don’t think there is anything particularly visionary about land clearance that displaces people out of their homes in order to make room for a mega-project. That seems like very backwards 20th century thinking to me. That has been the city’s MO for decades. That’s what Pruitt-Igoe was. That’s what Millcreek Valley was. This is also what happened on the Arch Grounds. St. Louis’ Chinatown disappeared this way, too. So, I think taking the more difficult approach of finding a more appropriate spot for the mapping agency while keeping people in place here and doing infill, like UIC is doing over in South St. Louis, is a fresher, more visionary approach. They are doing facade work for existing residents pro bono, building green housing and bringing up the standard of living for everyone – their approach is holistic, and it’s working. Also, I doubt anyone who says this is an awesome idea would feel the same way if they were losing their house to the project, or had to live two blocks away from a high-security government complex. I just don’t want the human part of this to get lost in the discussion, because it’s important and it’s a very real part of this whole process. These discussions just get way too abstract sometimes.

          • matimal

            I support any investment that increases property values, but much of the land clearance is already done. The owners will get market value and will be able to put that into housing with a better chance of increasing in value elsewhere. In American you see your chance and you take it. We can’t proceed in some idealized way.

          • Stefene

            I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree. Again (see Graham’s comment, above), there is no guarantee they are going to get anything close to a great deal. And many of these families are operating on the thinnest of margins. Also, I drive this area every day, and it is not accurate to say “the land clearance is already done.” There are some empty blocks, but there are also a lot of standing, occupied homes (owned free and clear), churches, and businesses. It’s not idealized thinking to come down on the side of the dignity and basic rights of everyday people. Also, doing infill housing and bringing this neighborhood back to life is far from some impossible task – I assure you it would not require the bending of the laws of physics. North City is NOT a lost cause. Check out Richard Baron’s Brewery Project (not far from this footprint) and you will see how to do things right. It is more than possible.

          • Alex Ihnen

            “It’s not idealized thinking to come down on the side of the dignity and basic rights of everyday people.” Well said.

          • Stefene

            Thank you, Alex. And thank you again for all your always thoughtful and carefully researched writing, and for creating a place for these discussions to take place.

          • matimal

            Sadly, it is. History, not to mention day to day life in the most successful metros, is filled with the individual tragedies and indignities that facilitated greater achievements. Without slavery, the U.S. would be far smaller and less influential in the world today, for example.

          • Adam

            so then it was idealized thinking when slavery was abolished? we should have kept it around ’cause it was good for the economy?

          • matimal

            this isn’t a moral debate, but yes, slavery ended for social and political reasons, not economic ones. Without the expansionist push of slavery, large swaths of the southwest would be part of Mexico today and the Pacific Northwest would likely be canadian. Economic growth requires the exploitation of comparative advantage. If St. Louis doesn’t does not seek to maximize the value of its land, labor, infrastructure, etc. it will not grow.

          • Adam

            so then you’re saying that morality/ethics has no place in economic decision-making, and that individual tragedies and indignities are justified in the name of economic growth because history. got it.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Please stop, both of you.

          • matimal

            Yes, that’s right. Morality and ethics are different from economics. That’s why we have different words for them. St. Louis doesn’t exist because of any morality or ethics, it’s residents have morality and ethics because St. Louis exists. Capital is amoral. St. Louisers can never afford to forget that.

          • Adam

            “morality has no place in economics” =/= “morality and ethics are different”. the discussion is lost in space… sorry Alex. no more comments.

          • matimal

            The truth is hard to accept for some. I’m not sorry. Disabusing people of their comfortable delusions is a good, if not always pleasant, thing.

          • Adam

            did that happen? i wasn’t aware.

          • matimal

            I’m guessing you say that phrase often.

          • Adam

            pretty sweet ad hominem.

          • Alex Ihnen

            You guys.

          • Frank Wheeler

            I know this discussion is over, but this claim–

            “this isn’t a moral debate, but yes, slavery ended for social and political reasons, not economic ones.”

            –is highly debatable (probably more accurate to say it’s totally false) and has in fact been a major point of contention in slavery/Civil War studies. Many have convincingly argued (perhaps most prominently Eric Foner) that the Civil War was as much about competing economic visions as it was political/social ones. North stood for burgeoning industrial capitalism based on “free labor” (i.e. wage laborers) while the South stood for an agrarian economy totally dependent on (increasingly untenable) slave labor.

            History shows that one of those regions (and its economic system) was far more productive and prosperous at the time of the war, and that it vastly outperformed the other for a century after its end. Take a guess…

          • matimal

            No one is guaranteed anything. We have to make the best decisions we can.

          • Stefene

            I would totally agree with that statement, Matimal, if the deck was not stacked so much higher against some people than others. Most people have absolutely no idea how expensive it is to be poor, or how people get punished and preyed upon when they are vulnerable. Income disparity is getting worse and worse, and this is largely due to manipulation of the political system. It isn’t a matter of luck and bootstraps, unfortunately. I wish there was a larger capacity for that, believe me!

          • Stefene

            Anyhow, Alex, thank you for writing about this, and bringing it up for public discussion. I love your blog and I appreciate what you do -you do a superlative job with this site. It makes me really upset when I see vulnerable people being harmed, and I fear that is what is going to happen here, so that is where my fierceness on this topic stems from. And I think it would be an awkward fit so close to residential. We’ll see what happens. Thanks for helping us stay aware and think about these things.

      • Graham Lane

        The problem with offering market value in this area is that there is no market value the way there is in most of the region. The housing stock for a multitude of reasons (complicated reasons) is in rough shape. You just cant get a decent appraisal. My fear is that people living in 3 story brick 1900s homes are going to get $50K at best and be forced to move into a tiny 1/2 bungalow box in South City.

  • T-Leb
    • Adam

      Holy sh*t that’s awful… Even in it’s current state N. STL looks better than that.

  • jhoff1257

    I just read in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Paul McKee is moving forward with an urgent care facility (to be part of a larger medical and education campus) at 25th and North Market streets. That intersection sits within the boundary of the blocks the City is willing to hand over to the NGA.

    Anyone else find this interesting?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Not a lot of either makes sense.


      That “urgent care” facility is bs. Its at best a tiny understaffed clinic, that may or may not actually manifest, thrown out to appease NatGeo. I really hope this falls through and they go to Scott AFB.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Yes. NorthSide has been reduced to holding a press conference to announce that they have applied to maybe have an urgent care w/ three hospital beds built.

        • OPT INSTL

          & no full time physician on staff. McKee is just a joke.When are people going to figure out that the only way to “revitalize” an area is with JOBS for people in that area? Building another Starbucks, especially with public money, doesn’t create prosperity. & even BPV, what did it really do? It didn’t create more business, and barely created more jobs. & the local businesses that have been there for years LOST business. And that $17million sales tax credit makes my blood boil. I hate that new Cortex Metrolink too, $10 million of Metro’s money, for an already served area. And an hour to a Metrolink from Riverview by bus, no matter how u ride, and NorthSTl is Metro’s most widely used and dependent area. Really sick of St Louis “leaders”.

  • Presbyterian

    I could see how this might provide a physical and psychological buffer to help development east of the site, but I’m having trouble seeing exactly how this fits within a vision for Northside … or the city. Sometimes it’s better to just walk away.

    • Guest

      This is the vision for the Pruitt-Igoe site that Northside Regeneration submitted to the Board of Aldermen in 2013. Our elected representatives made a decision of extending public incentives for the project based on this intended outcome, not on the NGA proposal.

  • STLEnginerd

    Another nice spot for it might be 9250, and 9300 Riverview. Between Cement Land and the river. In the city, but tucked out of the way against the river (river provides a natural setback and reduces land requirements… Flooding could be an issue but the facility could be built in such a way that this becomes much less of an issue. Owned bya single owner. Someone should at least investigate the feasibility of this site.

    • STLEnginerd

      Don’t like that site how about 11110 Riverview. Right at the foot of the new Chain of Rocks Bridge, owned by BBN and they were denied that Casino so how about selling to NGA. A lot of land around there is owned by Parks and Rec too. At its narrowest it is 1000 ft and easily 2000 ft long. Suburban location for suburban development, and guess what… still in the city limits. I don’t even think Pruitt Igoe is the best place to put NGA in the city.
      Why are they putting all their eggs in McKee’s basket.

      • OPT INSTL

        Oh no even worse. Please let them go to Scott AFB.


      Oh no please no. I live here. I do not want that agency here at all. And yeah it gets flooded a lot.

  • QueticoDan

    If built there, you’d never be able to get into Crown Candy again.

  • tbatts666

    Sounds like a good idea. It’s pretty far away from the Metro….

    Maybe a good thing for North St Louis. But to be honest I live in Soulard, how am I supposed to know what could be good for North St Louis.

    Outsider thinking led to the failure of Pruit Igoe. They didn’t know what the people were going through, and they bullied them, and underfunded and mismanaged the project.

    What does the Alderman from this area think of it? I think that is a very pertinent queestion.

  • STLEnginerd

    Hahahaha. Maybe the goal is to present a plan that is SO completely awful that no one will blame Slay when they decide to leave….
    GSA Downtown, NGA in Oveland… PLEASE!!!!!

  • Michael S

    What is this, the 1950s again? Does anyone actually think razing a huge site in the middle of the city can fix it’s problems? Don’t be so easily fooled. This is deja vu.

    It seems as if Scott is the best location for the development. It’s one matter for a group of urban-minded individuals to sit here and discuss the merits and cons of locating in the city, but there are more important factors to consider. With the agency’s roles and functions, proximity to Scott is unquestionably the biggest factor to consider. With it’s communications and military infrastructure, Scott has the most to offer.

    It’s also in a safe area with easy access to I-64, Metrolink, good schools, and upper middle-class housing. If the decision were based on merit, the choice seems obvious.

    We can talk about city politics, urban renewal, neighborhood socioeconomics and so forth, but remember, those probably aren’t the agency’s most pressing concerns. Not even close.

  • Daniel S. Leritz

    NGA would be an incredible anchor to North Saint Louis. It would provide a massive influx of professional, high-paying Federal jobs into an area bereft of professional employment opportunities at large, all while expanding the Agency’s operational capacity and the total number of people employed to the facility.

    Currently, the NGA has employees residing throughout the Metro Area, with I believe the majority living in STL City and County. Having their new facility centrally located in the City, rather than in a suburb or an exurb, would be appreciated by many who currently work at their facility along Broadway. A North City NGA facility will likely spur an influx of professional employees, and ancillary businesses relevant to the needs of the NGA, to locate themselves proximate to a new NGA site in the City.

    The main push for the City’s push for this site is to retain the jobs that currently exist at the NGA’s facilities in South City along Broadway. This agency promotes co-location of related professional businesses, such cartography and various IT-related enterprises. Employees with the NGA make very strong salaries, as do site-related workers, and it’s important that we keep as many of them in the City while we seek to foster more of both.

    At issue for STL City’s urban environment, and Northside Regeneration, is that the NGA would not match the urban grid. This need for an offset to the City’s streets, and being designed more as a campus, is imperative to the nature of the NGA. Let’s not forget that this is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a core component of the US Intelligence Community. The CIA operates on what the NGA provides them; throughout the Cold War, it was the NGA receiving and analyzing the Corona Spy Satellites and photographs from reconnaissance planes like the U-2 & SR-71. It was from South Broadway where Kennedy first learned Cuba was receiving Soviet medium-range ICBMs, and where the US first scoped out Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad. They mapped the Moon for the Apollo missions. On the private sector, they partner with Microsoft and Google, and they help secure events like the Olympics. NGA mapped out NOLA after Katrina to facilitate emergency operations. They conduct the most serious of business.

    NGA currently has 14,500 split between its new HQ in suburban Virginia (2/3 of their employees) and the 2 smaller campuses in STL (1/3 of their employees, likely to grow upon project completion). Security around their new facilities, wherever they end up constructing, will absolutely include restricted access, security checkpoints for vehicles, and I’d assume some parking surrounding the building in the offset, like is done for most buildings in the intelligence community. It’s not like Express Scripts’ campus, or Mallinckrodt’s pain-relief manufacturing operations, or even Boeing’s Weaponry Divisions in Hazelwood. This likely would be the most urban location for a publicly-recognized intelligence agency in the US. Yes, we can expect beautiful new buildings to be built on-site, noting that their new $2.4B (yes, with a B) HQ was recently noted both for its size (third largest government building in the DC Metro Area) and for its aesthetic qualities, particularly its giant atrium; benefits of a classified budget. However, this will be an extremely secure facility, one the public will likely never enter.

    Personally, I’m very much in favor of the NGA basing itself in North City, providing an incredible impetus of high-earning employees into the Metro Area while demonstrating continued confidence in the City of Saint Louis, and especially North City. Otherwise, if they don’t get a strong enough offer from the City, then the best place for them to be is undoubtedly Scott Air Force Base.

    • Alex Ihnen

      We know what the NGA does, and their basic wish list for a new facility. One big question is exactly what impact the facility would have on adjacent development. Three thousand jobs is a big number, but across 120 acres, it’s not dense at all. Similar corporate campuses such as Nestle-Purina, Ameren, and Wells-Fargo (all on a much smaller footprint, and at least Wells-Fargo with many more employees) show basically zero adjacent development after many years.

      • Daniel S. Leritz

        Agree that it’s not going to be densely built, and I think it would be a lot more restrictive than the other major urban campuses in the City. Still, what if this is built into an area that is surrounded by dense residential new construction, as per the Northside Regeneration ideal? Would the loss of 22 blocks of urban grid, plus the old Pruitt-Igoe Forest, be offset by the gains of a new NGA facility built into North City? I do think that, should they decide to build in North City, ancillary businesses that support the NGA’s current operations will strongly consider relocating themselves to North City ancillary to the site.

    • Adam

      “It would provide a massive influx of professional, high-paying Federal jobs into an area bereft of professional employment opportunities at large…”

      and it would leave the Kosciusko site equally bereft. i haven’t heard anything about expanding the number of people employed at the new facility so until such an announcement is made it seems to me the net gain is zero.

      “This likely would be the most urban location for a publicly-recognized intelligence agency in the US. Yes, we can expect beautiful new buildings to be built on-site, noting that their new $2.4B (yes, with a B) HQ was recently noted both for its size (third largest government building in the DC Metro Area)”

      But the new DC building is not urban and, therefore, not in DC proper. Ours would be a massively suburban (or worse) site plan jammed into the middle of the city. Any hope of urban redevelopment in the vicinity would likely be lost.

      • Daniel S. Leritz

        Absolutely agree that the new NGA HQ is not urban in design. It’s an installation within Fort Belvoir, an Army base outside of Springfield, VA. If NGA builds in North City, the cost would be the loss of the city grid there. In the best interests of the City, I’m all in favor of continuing their presence here; same time, it makes total sense that they’re gonna build inside Scott AFB.
        So here’s the question… What’s more important: retaining 3,000 high-paying jobs and the businesses that work with them, or retaining the city grid north of the Pruitt-Igoe Forest? Right now, it looks like we can’t have both. I personally prefer jobs here.


      “A North City NGA facility will likely spur an influx of professional
      employees, and ancillary businesses relevant to the needs of the NGA, to
      locate themselves proximate to a new NGA site in the City.”
      Sorry i read this as “a bunch of middle class white people coming into the area and marginalizing all the black residents, creating a police state.”
      My fondest hope is they go to Scott.

  • Roger87

    So 122 acres and 3,000 jobs? That’s about 1,800 square feet/job, right? The largest office towers in downtown, covering only 1.5 acres or so, have many thousands of jobs, at least as many as 4,000 and possibly many more. There are even residential neighborhoods in St. Louis that have higher densities than that.

    For comparison, Boeing’s factory in Washington state, the largest building in the world by volume, is only 98 acres, but employs 30,000 people. Of course, they had the good sense to put it 25 miles outside Seattle, since it makes no sense to put such a land-hogging, grid-disrupting, low-density use in the center of a city.

  • rgbose

    500Ft setback? A football field isn’t enough?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Guessing the setback requirement is soft, but if done just as it states, would look like this: NGA project outlined in blue, area with 500ft+ setback in orange. Perhaps parking garage at Pruitt-Igoe and under/over Cass Ave access to building(s)?

      • John R

        Now this is a bit intriguing. So we’re able to offer the NGA all of their requested acreage and satisfy the setback in the area north of Cass? Yet we’re also throwing in the P-I site for good measure. Why?
        I’d be more receptive to the idea if NGA was cloistered north of Cass and the P-I site were used for an additional — and better fitting — development. (Perhaps the GSA could bring more government employees as part of that.) We’d still lose the potential for creating a quality neighborhood north of Cass but we’d create much better jobs density than the city proposes and the P-I site could be developed with a more urban-friendly site plan.

        • “Yet we’re also throwing in the P-I site for good measure. Why?”

          Through 2013, the State of Missouri’s taxpayers kindly provided Northside Regeneration LLC with 100% of funds for holding costs of the land in this area. Then the state let the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit expire. Now the developer has to pay its own way. I don’t think there is any doubt that selling as much land as possible to a single buyer is the most expedient way for Northside Regeneration to discard its liabilities here, while making a profit on land that it has purchased at discounts from the city government itself.

          The city could have made this deal itself, and reaped the rewards of the sale for general revenue, had it not sold the land and the Pruitt-Igoe site option to Northside Regeneration. Once again, city government’s lack of actual strategy for vacant land is obvious.

          • dempster holland

            Little bit of hindsight, Michael?
            Having said that, I do agree that Mr McKee has been a bit
            silent recently. All obstacles should be out of the way and
            I would think some projects (McCormick/Baron?) would be

          • Not hindsight. The truth we have seen coming since we uncovered the project in 2005.

          • dempster holland

            I hope you are wrong, but as I mentioned things should have
            picked up more now that legal matters are resolved.
            As to the city’s strategy on vacant land, I think you have to
            view that strategy from the viewpoint of the 1960s and the
            civil rights movement. Urban renewal with the demolition
            of large pieces of land had been discredited because of the
            forced removal of African Americans and low income whites.
            But no developer would come into a neighborhood that was
            only half vacant and half occupied. Therefore, nothing was
            happening. It was noted that vacancies were increasing, how
            ever, and the expectation was that at some point population
            would drop so much that only a relatively few would be left.
            At that point–20 or 30 years in the future, private
            developers could be attracted and little social disruption
            would occur. Vacant land taken at tax sales was land-banked
            in anticipation of that day. There has been some development
            in the murphy blair area and Jeffvanderlou as these areas
            showed substantial vacant land. The McKee plan
            came at the time when the area was sufficiently depopulated
            to allow a large scale plan or process of redevelopment.
            That is where we are now but I am beginning to wonder
            if in fact the McKee plan will ever get started in any meaning-
            ful way

          • I think that the new housing developments in St. Louis Place and JVL would be continuing had Northside not stepped into the picture. The subdivisions around St. Liborius Church may be a little suburban, but they are successful and have allowed many families to live in new houses very close to downtown. I’d bet we’d have more of that development and less of Northside’s perpetual blight had things gone differently.

          • Mike F

            “…city government’s lack of actual strategy for vacant land is obvious.”

            Say amen, somebody!

  • Four thoughts:

    Will any of the other St. Louis-area sites NGA is scouting require eminent domain to take owner-occupied houses and taxpaying businesses?

    The redevelopment plan approved by the Board of Aldermen and presented to residents of the St. Louis Place neighborhood showed the blocks north of Pruitt-Igoe as an open grid with parks and new housing. Paul J. McKee, Jr. told homeowners that he was not going to use eminent domain to get their houses. Now, apparently, both the plan approved through public process and the pledges to private property owners are malleable. (Also, remember when McKee told the crowd at Central Baptist Church that he was going to demolish the GPX warehouse because residents shouldn’t be walled off by giant buildings? I do.)

    McKee actually got it right before, proposing infill construction here. This is one of the few areas adjacent to downtown where large-scale residential infill is possible. The haste to shuffle jobs around the city could deal a heavy blow to making downtown a walkable area surrounded by walkable human-scaled neighborhoods.

    The NGA project would all but guarantee that every number in Northside Regeneration’s TIF proposal — jobs created, value of assets upon completion, number of housing units — will never be met.

  • ABW

    The big building at the NE corner of Cass and Jefferson is the old Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory, a National Register listed property. If the Feds were going to take over that building and tear it down, they would have to go through Section 106 Review, which could present some procedural hurdles to pursuing their plans. Because of this, the proposed site might not meet the definition of “unencumbered”…

    • Adam

      I hope you’re correct but I doubt it would be much of a hurdle for them.

  • John R

    Giving up that much real estate for a high-security facility would come at a high price. I think the best outcome for the area would be to have a high-density employer on the P-I site that would propel high quality mixed-use (mostly residential) infill to the north.
    Those vast tracts of largely vacant blocks b/w Cass & Montgomery seem to be the most conducive for creating a new neighborhood of largely high-quality modern construction w/in Northside Regeneration. Turning over those blocks to NGA would strike several hundred units located in prime space off the potential development rolls.

  • JohnThomas52

    This is a good opportunity for St. Louis city to bump up the population figure by 3,000 persons quick and dirty if they can get these new NGA workers housed close to where they work. It would fill in the northside area with needed residents in that area. They could call their neighborhood the NGA neighborhood. If the city wanted 3,000 people to live and walk to work to the NGA site, they would really need to step up the development and turn it in to a desirable livable community as part of northside regeneration. New homes and decent school choice in the area would need to happen in short time. Not sure if this is all possible but I’m sure Paul McKee would develop the area to make it all possible. Would the area be desirable enough that people would want to live and walk to work? We shall see.

    It would be nice to also see small businesses serve the 3,000 workforce–maybe send in 20 different food trucks, switching them out daily to offer variety of food and drinks. It would be good business for food truck businesses. Maybe Black-owned businesses can be developed in that area too, like grocery store, farmer’s market, breakfast place, coffee shops, sandwich & soup, pizzeria, bar, pharmacy, convenient stores, salon or wig shop, etc. . . It would be a really good opportunity for the Black business community of St. Louis. People would know some of their neighbors since many of them are co-workers at NGA. This could make for a tight knit community that has vested interest in St. Louis.

    • T-Leb

      Can I hit whatever you are smoking?

  • dempster holland

    this is absolute overkill, both on behalf of the city and of the federal government.
    There is no need to take such a big chunk of land as required by the federal
    government because of its unwarranted huge obsession with security. There is
    even less need for the city to take such a huge chunk of the north side for vacant
    open space that for “security” reasons will not be usable. Better to build a 9–hole
    golf course at Pruitt-Igoe and leave the chart center where it is, maybe adding
    a high-rise addendum for expansion

  • matty_fred

    It’s difficult to handicap this site’s chances compared to the others. I’m sure that Congressman Clay will be working hard to get both Senators McCaskill and Blunt on board for NGIA on Northside Regen, and perhaps both already are on board, and perhaps that’s enough to trump Senator Durbin’s effort on behalf of Scott AFB. We’ll see.

    Private capital hasn’t touched Northside Regen with a ten-foot pole. Northside Regen needs a kickstart, and landing a stable employer of 3,000 people is a pretty damn good kickstart. NGIA would serve Northside both as an anchor and as a signal to private capital that Northside is worth investing-in.

    From what I gather, the $25M that RM 200 wants will go to clearing and prepping the P-I site, acquiring lots north of the P-I site, and infrastructure improvements to better connect the Musial Bridge to the site. Even if NGIA chooses a site elsewhere, this is all stuff that has to be done anyway for Northside in order to attract investment. Private capital just isn’t going to do this stuff. It’s the City or it’s nobody.

    The 500 ft setbacks don’t bother me very much. I do hope, if NGIA picks this site, that Cass Ave. will remain a E-W thoroughfare through the site.

  • Guest
    • Adam

      ^ Repeat. This can be deleted too. Sorry.

      P.S. When I’m logged in through Disqus and try to delete something it instead sticks around as a “Guest” post. No idea why.

  • Adam
    • Adam

      ^ This can be deleted too. It’s outside of the proposed site. My mistake.

  • Jeff Leonard

    I can’t see how this location, what that much acreage, is the best long-term remedy for what ails North St. Louis. How many of the 3,000 jobs would go to local residents? How many of the employees driving in from presumably suburban locations would frequent nearby restaurants over lunch? Or do any other shopping nearby? If the tax base is the key, then find an underperforming non-residential location within the city of St. Louis.

  • Adam

    Welp, there goes this building:

  • jhoff1257

    North City needs jobs and investment. But is the answer really in what essentially amounts to a security fortress in the middle of an urban neighborhood? Closing off streets, 500 foot setbacks, demolition and large scale land clearance in an area that has already seen too much. All things most of the readers of this site are firmly against.

    Scott or the County may be a better choice here. Unless the NGA suddenly wants to build an urban friendly campus.

  • Kara Clark

    It could actually be nice if it was built along the lines of a medieval castle (complete with a moat and pretty landscaping):,_part_4.jpg

    I think my problem with it is that most contemporary architecture is cold and inhospitable and on a massive scale it becomes intolerable.

    • Chris Naffziger

      Yes, discussion over! I love Malbork Castle!

      But in all seriousness, are there really no other sites in the entire City of St. Louis with enough acreage? It seems like there’s huge amounts of vacant land on both the south and north riverfronts. I think the Pruit-Igoe site just isn’t going to happen.

  • Eddie Roth

    The old General Motors Plant at Union and Natural Bridge stood on 105 acres.

    Here’s what it looked like:

    The old Scullin Steel Plant on Manchester stood on 102 acres.

    Here’s a smallish picture what the yard looked like:

    Here is what National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Virginia looks like:

    • Eddie Roth

      Sorry, here’s what the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia looks like:

      • Eddie, would we want something like this in Shaw?

        • Eddie Roth

          Michael, Could a cool modernist office building that would house thousands of stable, good-paying jobs be a dynamic addition to some area of St. Louis that has experienced decades long vacancy?

          • dempster holland

            In the early 1950s the argument was that a lot of highrise
            buildings with “playgrounds in the sky” and located in a
            park like setting would be just the thing for the near north

          • I haven’t seen a design for the building that would go here, so don’t know if it would be “modernist” or “cool” — no matter what, the building is not the problem. The problem is the scale.

            How many jobs could then city get in 122 acres if such a site were developed fully, without a massive setback? Northside Regeneration’s Redevelopment Plan proposed 136,000 square feet of office space on the Pruitt-Igoe site and 7 blocks to the west alone. The Redevelopment Plan proposed new jobs created here, and a total of 21,670 NEW jobs in the redevelopment area.

            The NGA proposal places 3,000 existing jobs on 122 acres. This not only is a low density (very low realization of development potential of the land), it contradicts the Northside Regeneration Redevelopment Plan’s own projections.

            Also, why should my city lose 122 acres currently generating real estate taxes to a tax-exempt use? I challenge the administration to demonstrate why so much land is needed, when the project’s enabling legislation promised the delivery of new jobs, new housing units and property taxes on this land.

          • Eddie Roth

            I don’t have any idea what kind of design would be proposed for the site, either. I posted an image of the agency’s last project because I thought people would be interested to see it.

            The question I posed to you was not site specific. I simply asked: “Could a cool modernist office building that would house thousands of stable, good-paying jobs be a dynamic addition to some area of St. Louis that has experienced decades long vacancy?”

            Do you think a cool modernist office building of sufficient scale to house 3 thousand employees could be a dynamic addition to a long vacant part of St. Louis, Michael?

            Or do you think, categorically, it could not?

          • P. Matthews

            Long time lurker, first time commenter. Eddie, I have watched your comments closely on social media and traditional news sources because I assume that you speak as an authority. Your position in the Mayor’s office (shouldn’t you identify youself as such here?) means that you are sharing official policy stance. I find your positions without substance. I see again and again that instead of promoting a vision, or answering questions, you employ lazy rhetorical tricks and demand that anyone who doubts you answer your yes or no questions. You seem to (hopefully intentionally) completely miss the ongoing conversation. I hope that there is a master public relations plan you are persuing that simply escapes me. I comment here because your question above is the epitomy of this tired tactic. Micahel comments that his problem wiht a possible building has nothing to do with its design. You in turn demand that he answer if, in theory, a cool modernist building could be a dynamic addition to a vacant part of the town. Your position in city government should demand more of you than rhetorical obsfucation. In my opinion, several people have offered legitimate concerns about the project and its many unknowns. What I read from you, a voice from city government, is something like, “no one knows what it will look like, so isn’t it theoretically possible it’s a good thing?” I imagine a mayor standing up at a press conference announcing the project and saying, “I can’t answer any of your questions because I really know nothing of the project, and please stop asking questions because you don’t know anything either, and before I entertain any concerns, you must answer my hypothetical yes or no questions.” Please stop. It’s perverse to act as if we answer to you and not the other way around. You’re not adding anything of substance to the conversation and not represent the mayor’s office in a positive light. This is not made to be a personal thing. The project and the city and all the people who live in this area aren’t about you. This is about what i should expect from city officials and about having a good open conversation about the communities concerns. My neighbors and me deserve real talk.

          • T-Leb

            “I simply ask” is another way of saying, you don’t have an argument based in reality.

          • opendorz

            Perhaps because at the pace of McKee’s “development”, we’ll be in the next century before ground on anything is broken

          • John R

            I dearly hope this isn’t the only option for what should be a highly sought after development site. McCormack Baron helped Pittsburgh win a transformative HUD Choice Cities grant for the underserved Larimer neighborhood… the P-I site (and surrounding neighborhoods) screams for such a powerful catalyst. Having a large employer anchor a mixed-use project with improved transit connections is the type of thing that can truly lead to great things. Did McKee tap MB to partner on a Choice Cities application for Northside Regeneration?

      • not Osama

        That’s a pretty cool building. From a Tweet about the project, I looked at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency website and found that at least 10,000 people are employed at NGA east. There are about 4,000 total NGA employees in the St. Louis metro area. The new facility here is reported to be planned for 3,500.

  • pat

    Any idea of the difference in city taxes generated between 3000 jobs or if that area was all residents?

    • rgbose

      No contest full of dense houses, some mixed-use, neighborhood businesses would be better. There would be property taxes from private property and earnings taxes from residents and workers. Federal property won’t pay property taxes. Now what’s the chance that this area can be “city” again? I’d like that to be our goal everywhere possible. It’s our only chance for a big enough tax base.

  • Hannah

    Not sure that giving up a space the size of downtown for 3,000 jobs would be worth it, especially considering the lost neighborhood connectivity. How are security needs increasing so much that a place 4x the size of Pl is required over their current location?

    • Nathan Bookhout

      I agree, that is an awful lot of razor wire to put in the middle of the city.

      • Eddie Roth

        What makes you think there would be razor wire?

        • Nathan Bookhout

          A little of the pessimist coming out in me. I just have the feeling that an 88 acre “secure” site in the middle of north Stl would end up looking an awful lot like a prison. I guess my question would be, why wouldn’t there be? They can build out at Scott AFB and it would be both cost effective and perfectly acceptable to ring the site in chain link and razor wire. Eddie Roth posted a picture above that looks very acceptable if a bit suburban, but if we zoom out a bit what does the outer perimeter consist of?

        • moe

          The current site has razor wire. At least around parts of it.
          Now…is it still needed with a new, high-tech secure building? I don’t think we’re in a position to know but I would think not.

    • Downtown Dapper

      Would you rather the jobs move elsewhere? Perhaps to another region altogether? Sometimes I wonder if the thing that holds St Louis back has less to do with bad policy and way more to do with an abundance of complacency and pessimism, it makes for a very unattractive place to live and work.

      • Adam

        Not seeing how Hannah’s comment has anything to do with complacency or pessimism. It is precisely about whether or not an 85-acre fortress in the middle of the city makes the city a more attractive place to live and work.

      • disgruntled city resident

        The jobs aren’t moving out of the region, so by Slay’s playbook all should be fine if these too move out to Fentucky or Scotts-ylvania. Regional Cooperation, baby!

      • There is no possibility that the jobs are leaving the region.

    • Mike F

      Contractors over the last decade and more since 9/11 have found out that when the word “security” is mentioned, the money starts to flow. Ergo, the actual security needs of the new installation are likely inflated, as are the threats to said facility. Mention “military” or “intelligence” in the presence of the various and sundry contractors–large and small–and their eyes will glaze over with lucre-lust. Gotta keep that gravy flowing.

      This will be just another super-block ghetto, like BJC, SLU, Purina, convention center, but with pretty, shiny-new razor wire atop a chain-link fence. And bollards. Lots and lots of bollards.

      • dempster holland

        Absolutely right. And the next question is–how many security
        breeches have there been at the existing chart center in south
        St Louis? I will bet the answer is “zero”

        • T-Leb

          I believe that would be classified.

          • dempster holland

            So here is how the conversation goes. We have to spend
            tens of millions of dollars because we have a big security
            problem. Oh, how big is that security problem? Can’t tell
            you–that’s classified. Trust me

          • T-Leb

            Yep, these are the things you give implied consent to in order to protect our way of life. “They” will not tell you, you don’t need to know. You still live in a free society? Be grateful.

          • Mike F

            Please tell me that was satire.

          • T-Leb

            Not at all. Their budget is classified. You don’t even know the scope of their work, why would it surprise you that they don’t reveal security concerns? They are one of the Big 5 agencies of the 17 national intelligence agencies…
            We elect people that might get to know… we don’t get to know.

          • Adam

            ^ i think he was referring to the “protect our way of life/free society/be grateful” bit. it was a little much.

          • T-Leb

            Sorry, I guess we are defending the constitution…