nextSTL has learned that the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has decided to locate its new headquarters in north St. Louis City. The 99-acre site is the only location the city, long home to the NGA, was able to put forward as a viable option for the federal agency. The north city site is the agency’s “preferred location” and a public comment period remains before the decision is considered final in June of this year.
While several sites were among those making the final cut, it was believed the north city site was competing against a site in St. Clair County, IL adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. Political heavyweights from each state lined and made their case publicly over the past months. The decision will be formally announced tomorrow.
Most recently, the State of Missouri increased its pledge of support, combined with the City of St. Louis, to offer the north city site to the federal government at no cost. It was believed that this was necessary to match the offer of free land in Illinois.
Initial statements from NGA leadership state at the urban site was viewed as critical to attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce. The NGA informed both St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay and St. Clair County Executive Mark Kern of its decision this afternoon.
The successful effort by the city and Missouri could not have been more complicated to pull off. More than a decade after developer Paul McKee began his NorthSide Regeneration project nothing had been built, but he owned nearly 2,000 parcels and had obtained an option on the more than 30-acre Pruitt-Igoe site.
In order to offer complete site control to the NGA, the city had to strike a bargain with McKee, pursuing eminent domain on his properties and others. The largest, most historic building on the site may be moved. Others will be relocated, some will be demolished.
In their place will rise what will likely appear as a high-security corporate campus. The hope is that the project will kick-start other developments, including housing, retail, and office. The city recently made it clear it would pursue a new north-south light rail line to run adjacent to the site.
Approximately 3,000 employees work at the current NGA site near the Budweiser brewery in Soulard. It is expected that the workforce will grow, perhaps significantly, at a new facility. If so, and if salaries continue to increase, the impact of forgoing a portion of the city income tax to make the development happen could be lessened. This assumes that city voters choose to retain the earnings tax every five years.
The city and St. Clair sites each had a number of positives to offer, making the final decision, no matter what it was, likely to appear obvious in retrospect. The images so far released were produced by the City of St. Louis. The final project is still to be designed and will likely be significantly different from what has been seen to-date.
St. Clair County offered a site adjacent to an existing Air Force base, with room to expand. The city site offered space nearer current NGA employees, and within a federal Promise Zone. In the end, the agency and federal government chose not to abandoned a city it called home.
This is a developing story and will be edited as we learn more.
Official statement from NGA:
A good summary of the process to this point: NGA decision may clarify future of McKee’s plans for NorthSide
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