High Resolution Images of NGA West Vision for North St. Louis City

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The City of St. Louis has been lobbying hard to keep the next National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) West headquarters and 3,000+ jobs within the city limits. Even though two sites being considered are in St. Louis County, the city site recently earned the endorsement of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. The fourth site is located near Scott Air Force base in St. Clair County, IL. A final decision on the location will be made in March 2016. Click here for nextSTL coverage of the new NGA.

Proponents of the St. Clair County site have been vocal in the press and on social media, the City of St. Louis is clearly working hard to land the project. A briefing book (embed) below was produced and delivered to the NGA recently. The site plan, renderings, and information below are from that document.

[Click here to read the NGA West Draft Environmental Impact Statement]

Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

Next NGA West City of St. Louis Briefing Book by nextSTL.com

//////// NGA Report 2nd Edition & video added 02/03/2016 ////////

NGA Report 2nd Edition by nextSTL.com

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  • John R

    That’s a pretty good video extolling the virtues of the core and regardless of the outcome it should be repackaged and sent out to every company on the Missouri side of the river that isn’t in the City of Saint Louis.

  • moorlander

    Since this is a “secure facility” does this mean it will be surrounded by chain link fence and barbed wire?

    • rgbose

      All I see are trees on the perimeter.

      • moorlander

        The current location on Arsenal is surrounded by barbed wire fence.

      • Alex Ihnen

        The images here were produced by the city to try and show how the NGA might use the site. IMO – they’re probably not close to what would be built if this site is used.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Maybe, but probably not. I’m guessing, but would imagine an earth berm with perhaps a fence behind, etc. It doesn’t have to be ugly.

  • rgbose

    Hope the NSTL site is selected. The cost in time, lives, personal and public money to support the long commutes to SAFB is too high.

    Please save the Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory building.

    Moving the other historic buildings to any of the numerous empty lots nearby would be great too.

    • Adam

      Based on page 14 of the report the city has no intention of saving Buster Brown. Oh, but they’re going to take pictures and document it’s historical relevance! Maybe even build a driveway with its bricks! At least there will be “interpretive programs” to tell the story of how the city bulldozed everything. Hooray!

      • rgbose

        Wouldn’t it be poetic for cars to drive over the materials of a building given how many have been destroyed in the effort to serve them?

  • Eddie Roth

    I think the “urbanism” critique is misplaced.

    Factories that put vast urban tracts off limits — even adjacent to residential districts — are a central part of the city landscape tradition. (See e.g. old Scullin Steel on Manchester; old Chevrolet Pant, Natural Bridge/Union.)

    NGA is an intelligence factory.

    • John R

      This project falls far short of good urbanism; that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue it, but the reasons for doing so stem from being the only site in the city that can meet land assemblage needs. The type of less accessible, industrial location that NGA currently is in is much more ideal from an urbanist perspective and it is unfortunate that NGA didn’t have more room there for its needs..

      As for the examples of past industry you cited, those were not immediately adjacent to Greater Downtown (and also were along rail). Perhaps we should have proposed those sites! Having said all this, I understand the need to pursue this as a defensive measure and I believe there is some potential for the project to help activate surrounding areas, especially if sound neighborhood planning is incorporated into the Choice Neighborhoods work, etc.

  • J Vollmer

    As an NGA family and residents of the city, we are big supporters of a city location. While the feel is suburban that really comes down to non-negotiable security measures. One upside to consider is where the employees will live. Many NGA employees are from outside the area. They will not have the negative feelings many who were raised here have for North city. Many will choose to buy in Old North and St. Louis Place increasing the growth already occurring there. In fact an NGA decision for North City may be the encouragement we need to buy our next home there.

  • I don’t see what the fuss is about. It’s roughly the same size as the AB brewery or the Barnes-Jewish complex or SLU. Or for a non-STL example, Stuyvesant Town or the new Boston convention center. It’s not that big.

    • John R

      The site is equivalent in area to the core CBD from Memorial to Tucker and Washington to Chestnut.. nothing to sneeze at. Obviously you wouldn’t expect it to be as dense as the CBD, but it is a significant land mass that would not generate any property tax and would only yield a rather low amount of earnings tax, especially after deducting the significant costs needed to deliver the property to the NGA.

      • John R

        Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be the McRee Town neighborhood… the total land area is about the same as that from Vandeventer to Spring and Lafayette to Folsom. This area contains the vast bulk of the McRee Town population as well as a good share of Tiffany’s. I don’t think there is any reason to believe this part of Saint Louis Place won’t see better days like McRee Town/Botanical Heights if you give it time…

        Of course, there still may be controversy involved with that process of change for the neighborhood, but I can easily see it as future target area for single family/townhome construction down the road.

    • jhoff1257

      None of those things are remotely similar to what the NGA is proposing here. AB and BJC are actually somewhat urban in nature and for the most part fit within their respective neighborhoods. While there was some demolition and street closures for both of them in regards to newer construction in recent years neither of them clear cut removed basically an entire neighborhood to build a fenced in fortress. SLU also built up with the city and outside of what they’ve done south of Chouteau most of the land they sit on was cleared during the Mill Creek Valley clearance. It wasn’t necessarily their doing.

      And how a neighborhood in NYC and the Boston Convention Center fit into this is beyond me. It’s not just about the size, it’s just as much about the use and design.

    • Alex Ihnen

      You’re not wrong. Though I think most of those places employ a lot more people – though perhaps not at the same wages. I think Wells Fargo in STL is about 40% the size of the proposed NGA and employs about 80% more people.

      My opinion is that the juxtaposition of a complex like this in an area that is clearly historic and urban is difficult to reconcile. I think some of the opposition (for lack of a better word) to the project comes from our continued anger at the state of the city – its fall, and from doubts that something like this is actually possible. It’s bad urbanism to be sure, but much of the city is only urban by an historical viewpoint, not looking at it today.

      • John R

        Wells-Fargo pays more in property taxes alone than what NGA would generate in earnings tax revenue for the city…. and that’s before the city would re-direct half of those earnings taxes back to pay off the infrastructure costs to bring the site to the hands of the NGA.

  • gmichaud

    I’m not sure I understand why they don’t build at the existing site. There is a huge amount of parking that can be converted, the site is already secure and there is an adjacent Lyons Park has two ball fields.
    The government should be taking the lead in reuse, there is no reason to abandon the current site.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The reasoning given for leaving the current site is that it’s too small and the hodgepodge of buildings dating to before the Civil War don’t work well for 3,000 employees. The site nearly flooded in 1993, and it’s adjacent to an active rail yard. I don’t find it surprising at all that they would look for a new site.

      • gmichaud

        I understand what you are saying, but I’m sure the city would do a deal for Lyons Park which is way above the flood plain if that is considered a problem (they built their current large office building on the lowest part of the site)
        In addition, even though it is the end of the line for rail at that location, the benefits of adjacent rail could be significant, especially if the region ever got its transit act together. A question to ask is if commuter trains are possible?
        I just feel like with some creative inputs into the current site could come up with a solution, equal, if not better, than others.
        The flip side is that I have to agree with many comments that point out the new site is yet another suburban solution in an urban area.
        All levels of government use the right words like walkability or sustainability and so on, but we never see those words converted into reality.
        It just seems to me it would be incumbent upon government agencies at all levels to re utilize existing resources rather than continually assume public money is limitless.
        I think a damn good architectural/urban solution is possible at the current site especially if Lyons Park is part of the design program.

  • Mj

    Ugh. This is a HORRIBLE location. Our leadership is painfully short sighted and it kills me.

    • moorlander

      I don’t necessarily disagree with you but what exactly do you suggest our leadership do differently? Unfortunately, this government agency has very specific requirements so it’s either this proposal or kiss 3000-5000 jobs goodbye.

  • STLEnginerd

    So is the whole site closed to uncleared pedestrians or are those ball fields publicly accessible? Same question for the tennis courts though i think that pretty clearly inside an exclusion zone. Not sure why NGA wants to build and maintain athletic fields, unless they are open to the public.

  • Chicagoan

    “The catalyst anchor to create a vibrant urban community”. Lol. I hate it when developers try to spin their crap and say it’ll improve the surrounding community.

    • Michael B

      Generally I agree with you, but I think the current state of that area is detrimental to the surrounding community. By replacing it with anything better than what is currently there would result in a net improvement.

  • Andy

    Laughable. The FBI building is “secure” at 222 Market and doesn’t need 700 foot buffer zones. The PENTAGON is less than 200 feet from Washington Blvd in Arlington, VA and 150 feet away from the 9/11 memorial which is open to visitors all the time. The renderings have buffer zones, from what I can tell, ~500-700 feet away from any street with two giant parking garages acting as an additional buffer. Easy solution: give them HALF of the land and have them put the buildings 150 feet from the street, build a taller single parking garage and scrap the baseball fields. Leave the rest of the land for future development so we can save some of the historical street grid and structures.

    • Alex Ihnen

      It doesn’t seem as though the city is in a position to tell the NGA how to design its building.

      • And it never will be, for NGA or anyone, if we continue to sell out our urban core for a lark. There’s a line that must be drawn (and I feel St. Louis is quickly approaching that line) wherein a City must decide to stand on its own merit and forego the incentivization and roll-over governance it “needs” to land or keep jobs.

        • Alex Ihnen

          My point is that the NGA isn’t a retail outlet that can and does chose different designs, such as CVS. For office, retail, residential, etc. there can be room to negotiate. The idea that the NGA would change its requirements on this project seem far fetched, but that’s just my opinion.

          • Chicagoan

            For a suburban-style design in the city, it’s not terrible. It’d be nice to see them consolidate some of the parking, perhaps into a single parking garage, but it’s not awful.

        • Chicagoan

          Omaha bending over backwards for ConAgra Foods, tearing down a historic district, and giving a corporation prime riverfront real estate, only to lose the HQ to Chicago 25 years later, is a relevant example.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Yes, but here the NGA wouldn’t be going anywhere after 25yrs, and they’re not tearing down an historic district and giving a private corporation prime real estate.

          • Chicagoan

            Yes, but it looks like they’ll be taking down another part of the street grid and allowing them to build a suburban-style campus in the middle of the city. It’s just disappointing.

            I’m sure our tycoon of a governor (Rauner) is lobbying hard to get those jobs into Illinois, even if St. Clair County might as well by Missouri in our minds.

            This place just seems like it should be in a more rural or suburban location, just doesn’t seem right putting that junk in the city.

            Then again, the city of St. Louis needs as many jobs as it can get, as it unfortunately has to compete against its own suburbs for the best jobs.

            I feel like St. Louis should be pushing hard for any and all tech jobs in the area so that they can eventually let these kinds of jobs go where they should be (outside the city).

        • Tim E

          The line you want to draw will guarantee 3000 well paying jobs, tax paying revenues into the city to go take a hike. The development area being used is decades away from density that will require the city regain its peak population. In the meantime, the city is having success in the central urban corridor and specifically CORTEX. Which is ironic from statements because CORTEX is as incentivized as you get. The fight I agree with and whole heartedly is the pathetic Midtown Station proposal. Even the thin down version along Vande should go away. That’s where the city needs to draw the line
          .
          But the simple reality is the city has some much space to utilize in north city, so many need for jobs and tax revenues and population that hasn’t shown a guess yet that I’m clueless on why you think sending NGA packing is better than having NGA in north city. Especially if the speculation is correct that NGA is actually looking at building a facility to support 5,000 jobs or another +2,000 to its roster.

      • Andy

        The City may not be in a position to tell them how to design their building, but the City should put themselves into position to suggest a better alternative. Where the Adventura sits is a perfect use for the land but the design leaves everyone wanting. I do not think the NGA situation is much different other than it is a federal agency as the potential occupier. I think the City should offer the NGA land at this site but not an area that is about the size of all the land east of Tucker, south of WashAve, west of Memorial, and north of Chestnut. (aka a large portion of the downtown business district.)

        This is all too little too late. 🙁

  • TransportationPlanner

    While I’m not under any illusion that this will be a transformative or catalytic development for the surrounding neighborhood; if it does not get built here the last few buildings will slowly get demolished, the streets will continue to fall into disrepair and eventually be closed and you end up with the same development pattern as the NGA building. At least if this gets built the city gets to keep the $2+ Million a year in income taxes and maybe get some solid infrastructure improvements to the streets and utilities.

    • John R

      I know where you’re coming from but my understanding is that 1/2 of that Earnings Tax Revenue would go right back to paying off the costs of the needed infrastructure upgrades for the area. So it is a very high price to pay –eminent domain on senior citizens, the removal of the street grid, non-urban form in the core — for something that doesn’t provide a huge windfall.

      So I see it more as a defensive measure rather than as moving STL forward. And I think if we look at what is going on even in Detroit, where there are a number of exciting projects moving forward re-catalyzing large, abandoned tracts located just outside downtown, this land will always retain great potential.

  • JZ71

    The same, assumed, arguments, about secrecy and security, could’ve been made about the new Police headquarters. If you/anyone, with the money, really wants something to happen, it happens . . .

  • Jake

    I understand the arguments about keeping jobs and the fact that there is just so much empty land in north city…..but my god it almost hurts to look at all that green space and a suburban office park smack in the middle of the city like that. I think these renderings have done more to convince me that it really should belong in St. Clair rather than the Northside.

  • jhoff1257

    Christ. When I first saw the photos of the Park Avenue business district in Lafayette Square, the images of the like 4 remaining historical houses in all of St. Louis Place (St. Louis Place would be quite the treasure if it wasn’t for the city doing exactly what it’s doing here) and the quote about building a vibrant urban community, I about shit my pants.

    Then I saw the Jane Jacobs quote…

    Plans like this in an urban setting are the exact thing Jacobs fought against. Destroying urban fabric, removing the street grid, and clear cut demolition were the very things she detested. Am I the only one that thinks including her likeness in this presentation is a slap in the face to her memory?

    You know what else I find rather disturbing? The fact that no one knew the NGA was even located at the old Arsenal, much less in the City, until they started shouting about needing a new location. They simply could have kept quiet and moved into the AT&T Center or some other large vacant building Downtown and we would have been none the wiser. Now the remaining parcels of a once stunning neighborhood will be wiped off the map for a glorified security fortress.

    Bullshit.

    • Josiah

      NGA unfortunately cannot just move into a building like that. It’s a Top Secret facility (requires ridiculously high clearance to get into) so it would need it’s own facility. I do agree this building seems exactly like something that should be in the suburbs

      • jhoff1257

        Considering the AT&T building will be entirely vacant by the time the NGA is scheduled to open its new facility they could have had it secure and to themselves. 3,000 to 4,000 jobs would easily fill that building. Just because it’s a high-rise and it happens to be downtown doesn’t mean it can’t be secure. And the AT&T building was just a suggestion, there are dozens of other buildings they could have chosen from. And again, the general public didn’t really even know they were there until they made their top secret facility and search extremely public.

        • T-Leb

          Actually, they couldn’t reuse a building, even the plans for new spy buildings are targets of China/Russia http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/05/28/china-hackers-australia-spy-agency-headquarters/2364863/

          • jhoff1257

            So if plans for new buildings are on the table for hackers what difference does it make if they use an old building? If the threat to get hacked is there the building doesn’t make a bit of a difference.

          • T-Leb

            Threats can be managed.

          • jhoff1257

            And my guess is the government can manage those threats regardless of the building or its design.

          • T-Leb

            Might remember this building from Bond
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIS_Building

          • jhoff1257

            Love the Bond movies. Really has nothing to with this though. We are talking about a secret mapping agency, not the CIA.

            And at the end of the day all I said was just wishful thinking. I understand the parameters and the requirements set forth for the new site, I just happen to think they’re ridiculous.

            Also, I highly doubt the NGA building will be built to the security specs of the MI6 building, if that’s what you were getting at.

          • T-Leb

            Espionage. Counter espionage. It’s a real thing. Defense mapping is super critical for submarines, cruise missiles, ICBMs, satellites. I’m sure you saw they built a model of the compound Osama bin Laden was hiding in before raid. That’s operations. So their level is really no less important than any other secret agency with a classified budget.

            It is wishful thinking. The best place for a facility is a bunker, but that doesn’t seem to be the direction they are going.

    • Alex Ihnen

      My understanding is that whether or not it’s possible (and anything is possible), the NGA simply isn’t, and won’t, go into an existing building. I don’t believe it needs to be as secure as a military base, or next to one, but it does need to be a secure facility, meeting a long list of requirements set forth by the agency. Whether we like that or not is a different issue.

      • jhoff1275

        Never once expected them to go into an existing building. A guy can dream right? And for what it’s worth I bet $1.6 billion could get you a pretty secure facility regardless of the design or location.

        And yes, a simple internet search would have turned them up. But let’s be honest, before their high profile search began, no one was looking. They got by just fine all those years at the Arsenal, just don’t see the sudden need for a nearly 2 billion dollar fortress. I do see the need for new, secure, modern office space, but this just seems overkill.

    • Chicagoan

      A simple internet search tells me that the AT&T Center is a fairly basic downtown building, that was built in the 1980’s. It was the new HQ’s after they left the Southwestern Bell Building, which is an absolute stunner with Art Deco and Neo-Gothic elements. Is the Southwestern Bell Building being put to good use?

      • jhoff1257

        AT&T Center is three buildings, the data center, the tower, and the historic SBC building. The data center and the SBC building will continue to house AT&T employees, as far as I know. They are only vacating the tower. It’s also not as basic as it looks. It was built as a single use tower so major renovations would be needed to house multiple tenants. Which is why an organization with about 3,000 employees and the possibility for growth would be a great fit for that building.

        Again, my suggestion of the AT&T Center was nothing but wishful thinking. I never once assumed the NGA would seriously consider moving into an existing building. I do appreciate you all taking me so seriously though…

        • Chicagoan

          I wasn’t commenting on that, I just wanted to make a point about the buildings! The Southwestern Bell Building is gorgeous. I’m not even from St. Louis.