North St. Louis City Chosen for $1.75B NGA West

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Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

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.

Next NGA West - St. Louis, MO

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:



[Click here for nextSTL coverage of the NGA]

A good summary of the process to this point: NGA decision may clarify future of McKee’s plans for NorthSide

Next NGA West City of St. Louis Briefing Book by

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

NGA Report 2nd Edition by

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  • National Geospatial Agency NGA developers The $2,000,000 a year can create 2000 jobs for people exiting jail and employment for the surrounding area ..

  • National Geospatial Agency NGA developers you know you don’t need that much space for that building. Split the land in 1/2 and generate over $2,000,000 a year with a “Extreme Obstacle Courses “IRON MAN TRACK COURSE” Presale tickets to help fund the course. I seen the NGA floor plans and 2/3 is just grass and landscape. The $2,000,000 a year can create 2000 jobs for people exiting jail and employment for the surrounding area . A product of Inventions Designs And Concepts LLC St.Louis

  • SnakePlissken

    An ultra modern glass spy agency surrounded by garden type marsh could be neat. No SLU like green space.

    For the love of god just give me a WORLD CLASS DESIGN that sets the tone for the next 100 years. No more stale ass design – this used to be a city of craftsmen damnit!

    • Chicagoan

      I’m biased as a Chicagoan, but I’d like to see Studio Gang (Specifically, Jeanne Gang) tackle this design.

      She’s on fire right now.

      • SnakePlissken

        I always liked Aqua Tower, didn’t know the architect until now. All I want is a design that represents the future in which we live… When i visit NYC or South Korea I think damn did I travel in time? No. Design here is (mostly) stale and conservative. Even Roberts Tower is boring and conservative – and that project may have scared off any new construction developer for years to come.

        You’d think with the massive amount of subsidies we toss around the City would require transformative design.

        • Chicagoan

          I think there’s some reason for optimism. If it were like the NGA’s building in Fort Belvoir, I’d be thrilled. The government is very often keen on building noteworthy architecture, I think.

          If the building must be solitary, they should make it attractive at the least.

  • joe

    Im african american and I grew up on the northside (north city to white saint louisans) and I am proud of this project. Your a complete fool if you cant see this as a good deal for the community. Most of the homes in this area or most of the northside are owned by investors not home owners, so the people in the homes don’t exactly have a commitment to the community either, i would like to see a report on home many home owners verses section 8 renters actually are in the northside. Great deal, hope more to come. I still live in the city, I don’t live on the northside because my neighborhood was a mess and unsafe for my kids, that’s just the reality, and you knuckleheads that want to keep it that way are crazy! Don’t get upset with whites making progress in your backyards, get upset with your neighbors killing each other day in and day out!

    • matimal

      Why do your origins matter?

      • STLEnginerd


        • matimal

          Your context, North St. Louis’ context, or the NGAs context?

          • STLEnginerd

            joe (who is not me btw) has an opinion on NGA, unlike many who also have opinions joe has 1st hand experience with North City. Are all opinions equally valid? Sure, but joe adds context to his by enumerating his background/experiences.

            This is why politicians choose to highlight their small-town roots or 2nd generation immigration status. Does it make the opinions more correct? Not necessarily, but it does make them more rooted in real life experiences, rather than what we read in academic article, internet forums, and crime reports on the nightly news.

            Sure its anecdotal evidence. Maybe joe was the only person feeling terrorized by the spiraling situation in North City. (not likely)

            Sure he takes a fairly “politically incorrect” stance regarding the source of and solution to the issues at hand, (much like those who point to the export of criminal element to North County as North City’s salvation btw) but he comes by those opinions honestly and his origins speak to that.

            Or maybe he is a troll protected by the anonymity of the internet. Either his point is convincing, or its not.

            Why is THIS a point of contention?

          • Adam

            because matimal likes to contend everything.

  • Chicagoan

    Anyone else enjoying the comments on the Belleville News-Democrat website?

    So looney, love it.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Good stuff: “it is located by a boat load of of people who like to steal and brake into cars”

      • matimal

        There are many who desperately NEED St. louis to be weak.

  • kuan

    Do you happen to know who produced that “next NGA West” report?

  • ehecker

    So its great that we’re keeping the jobs in the St. Louis area, but…
    -Nine East-West streets and two or three North-South streets are going to be lost. This is a 100 acre obstruction in the St. Louis street system.
    -Federal agencies don’t pay property tax, and St. Louis doesn’t have enough land that it can affort to just give away 100+ acres. Wish the City would have retained ownership of the land and leased it, since they can’t get prop tax.
    -Most NGA employees don’t live in St. Louis City, so no new Prop Taxes from NGA, there, either. Hopefully, NGA will spur residential development around NGA that NGA employees will want to buy.
    -100+ acre campus format? With baseball diamonds and a running path around the perimeter, yet? In the midst of a city that needs all the high-density, tax-revenue generating development it can get? Give us a smaller, more land-efficient footprint, please!

    I can undersand why NGA wants the St. Louis City option. I am less able to understand St. Louis City’s desire to offer the NGA option. This is not what a city that needs tax revenue does to efficiently enhance its bottom line.

    • Michael B

      As I understand it, the renderings you see above were produced by the City of St. Louis as more of a “look at what you could do” illustration. So the baseball diamonds and running path aren’t necessarily part of the plan. The complex needs a security buffer, so the rendering is showing a multi-use buffer. But the 100-acres is necessary, and a smaller footprint isn’t feasible because of the security needs. The final product might look very different. I’m personally hoping for a building as cool as their East headquarters, but I realize that’s optimistic.

      The area is not highly trafficked, and the main roads will remain around the campus. It is no more an obstruction than the Anheuser Busch complex or Bellefontaine/Calvary cemetery.

      St. Louis city really wasn’t getting much money from property taxes from that area in the first place, considering much of it is vacant/unoccupied and other parts were already city-owned

      I share your hope that the NGA will spur residential development, especially in the form of retail/commerical/residential on the old Pruitt-Igoe site. Whereas a football stadium would have sat empty for 350 days of the year, the NGA should help spark growth around it because people will be coming and going from the campus almost every day of the year.

      • Chicagoan

        Regarding people coming and going, it’s an exciting prospect, 3,000+ people in North St. Louis. But, what’s their presence going to be like? I think, for the forseeable future, people will be driving in, working, and driving out, with little neighborhood interactions.

        What’s got me optimistic is that with this investment, North St. Louis has something to count on, while public safety should continue to improve as well. People are often times quite willing to take a chance on a hardscrabble neighborhood, so long as public safety isn’t a huge concern. It’s a huge bummer that so much of the street grid is going be get wiped out, but the city just couldn’t let this many good jobs walk away.

        I’m not so hopeful about the immediate benefits, but I think sometime down the line, places like Old North should reap the benefits of this move.

    • Tim E

      ehecker, workers paying the city income tax is still huge and your looking that tax base actually expanding as I honestly believe this facility is about supporting 5,000 workers in the future as it will expand. Which also gets to your property tax issue, 2,000 more worker open up the opportunities for residing in the city and putting dollars back into private tax generating properties .
      The city has so much non productivity non tax generating land under LRA in north city already that I can think the trade off is worth it. Give up the +100 acres for a real shot at putting other north side property around it back to productive use. Without an anchor you have a situation where land on the north side or literally a third to half the city was continuing to devalue and slowly but surely going into the LRA which is work
      Finally, current site while not nearly as large will either be excess property and city will get a shot at it in time or Feds might make use of it for different agency. Either way the current site will find its back to property tax rolls or more earnings tax revenues will be possible

    • Tim E

      My thoughts on loss of street grid, yes that is hard reality. However, city should and hopefully pursue two opportunities. First, development of Pruit site next door should have its old street grid brought back. Second, state has earmarked dollars for Jefferson Ave ramps. This might be and should be the catalyst to remove the stub of the old 22nd ave parkway in order to put back some street grid that was lost in west downtown.
      Will it equal out, probably not as you noted the scale of the campus. But their should be some real opportunity to make up for some of what will be lost.

      • Michael A

        I just realized Tim had already made the point I was going to make: that they already inhabit land at the Arsenal that they aren’t paying taxes on and there will be an opportunity with that land once they’ve moved.

        • ehhhh. it’s land right on the river, so it’ll have insurance issues that make redevelopment unlikely. it’s going to end up like Chouteau’s landing.

  • Pingback: Details from $1.75B NGA West Decision for North STL - ConstructForSTL()

  • Berneshia Jamison

    Bull sh**!!! What are they doing to help the pepole of that community ? People I’ll be displaced for a building where they ate only qualified to clean toilets bull shit!!! Rail line!!!! Bull sh**!!!They need to invest directly in this area before bulding….fund a program for the youth. Pay for college uearly for at least 10-20 students. EMPLOY Saint Louis contractors and condtruction. How about a decent apartment complex….ridiculous!!!! This has got to be a joke…April fools right….right…right.

    • Mike

      Completely disagree. The number of residents being displaced by this will be quite small, a lot fewer than the 3,000 jobs that would be lost. This City needs to embrace development and positive change, particularly on the North side. You want more programs? They need to be funded. You can’t have one without the other. These 3,000 workers will all pay their 1% and that can help fund programs.

  • Mitch

    What I don’t understand is how they expect this to boost the neighborhood. I mean it’s a nice usage of what is now largely vacant land but it has zero pedestrian connection to the surrounding neighborhoods. People are going to drive in, work, and drive back home-they’ll have no reason to invest a single dollar in any nearby businesses, homes, or services.

    • Mike

      I disagree. People have to eat lunch, buy gas, etc. So there will necessarily be some increase in development around the area. With dirt cheap land prices this could cause a snowball effect and lead to a large increase in development. However, I think that, at worst, it will result in some additional development.

      • Imran

        Look at the Wells Fargo/Wachovia behemoth. Brought ?thousands of jobs and these employees likely impact the sales of local restaurants etc but the street-life around the complex is DEAD unless you count the herd of employees darting across the street to the parking garage at 5 pm.

        Unless a there is a real effort to shore up surrounding residential (giving priority to the people who stuck with the neighborhood through decades of disinvestment) the benefit to the local community will be little more than gas stations, fast food chains and well lit empty streets.

    • Chicagoan

      I don’t think that it’s about boosting the neighborhood as much as it’s about keeping 3,000+ good jobs in the city of St. Louis. I think you’re right in your skepticism regarding community development. The design will be offensive, it has to, considering the employer and the nature of their works. But, honestly, who cares? North St. Louis needs something and NGA is it.

      St. Louis likely won’t see dense housing grow around this development, but I think at the least, a couple of lunch spots open up and public safety improves quite a bit. And, ya know, when public safety improves, the neighborhood will become more attractive to live in. This is a great win for the city of St. Louis, no matter how you spin it.

    • Tim E

      I think it is both what Chicagoan and Mike have to say. The city needs those earning tax dollars until something significantly changes on the jobs front and property front. Second, north city won’t redevelop until their is jobs there period. The alternative of building greenfield next to Scott AFB was not good for north city let alone for the city

  • Riggle

    April Fools!

    • Tim E

      I honestly think the director was worried about that and why he gave Slay a call the day before on 31st and agreed to let the call, picture and so on go public. Other the releasing the letter of recommendation and email to employees did they even try to have a formal annoucement

  • rgbose

    Great news!

    Save the Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory!

    • Adam

      Against better judgment I’m gonna hold my breath that the owner will succeed in moving it across the street. I just don’t get why the NGIA needs to kill it though. It’s on the EXTREME edge of the site. From a security perspective it’s no different than a building 50 feet away on the other side of the street. Are they afraid of rooftop snipers or something? Their insistence on destroying it is just dumb and arbitrary.

      • Mike

        Because they have a campus plan and don’t want to build around something. Also, they take security rather seriously at federal high security facilities, so I would guess that the perimeters (where this would be) are amongst the most crucial to maintaining that security.
        There have been a lot of historic losses in North St. Louis, many older and more significant than this building. That said, I hope that they can find a way to move it.

        • Adam

          If you look at the site plan they’re clearly not intending to build anything within hundreds of feet of the factory, so building “around” it is not a concern. My point is that their insistence on demolishing the factory is seemingly arbitrary and probably driven by the site boundary (Jefferson) and a lack of desire on their part to bother with it, rather than security concerns. How much difference would it make, in terms of security, if the building were 50 feet away on the other side of Jefferson? Probably zero.

    • Chicagoan

      What a handsome building!

  • Now we can get down to it. With the pre-emergence of startups, bio-tech and software along with good cost of living, perhaps we can get busy with enforcement while changing the built environment to accommodate what will surely be a desire for multi modal transportation. I am optimistic. Yes, I said that.

  • SnakePlissken

    Dope. I think I’m most excited about a new interchange at 40/64 at 21st or 22nd. The possibility of several new commercial lots and a shiny new boulevard is welcomed.

    • Db

      There is $10m in general revenue from the state to add additional ramps at 64 and Jefferson and that’s about it. Haven’t seen anything for 64/22nd in MoDOTs 5 year 2017-2021 plan. Senate still has to approve the $10m for ramps

  • Presbyterian

    I’m excited to see such a large investment in north St. Louis. With a newly defined western edge just west of St. Louis Place, I hope that the prospect of residential buildout of NorthSide to the south and east of NGA becomes much more viable.

  • Ashley

    north-south rail line! what! where there more specific details on that or was it just a vague offering?

    • Slay mentioned it during his speech when he offered the land for free.

      • Dan

        As somebody who lives near South Jefferson and Chouteau, it would make lots of sense to use the median in Jefferson to run light rail from the new complex near already thriving neighborhoods like Lafayette Square to points further south that can still benefit from reinvestment and transit-oriented development.

        • Riggle

          That new QT is a perfect compliment to a train

          • Dan

            100% opposed to QT adding a glut of gas stations when/where they aren’t needed.

    • Riggle

      100% bullshit pandering

      • Dan

        That’s been one of the recommended Metrolink expansions for years, and makes sense on many levels. When/if it happens, and how long it takes, is a different discussion.

        • Eric45354

          Metrolink to the north side make no sense, because the area is rapidly depopulating!

          • Dan

            The north alignment does not stop in north city, but goes well north of that to areas where there is a good number of residents.

          • Adam

            Adding to what Dan said, a N-S line is much more likely to stimulate infill and investment in relatively compact north city ( between the densely populated central west end and near-north county) than a Westport line is to have a similar impact. we’ve already seen this play out; the Shrewsbury extension has the lowest ridership in the system while the central corridor has the highest and investment is booming throughout the central corridor.

          • Tim E

            Have to agree, but I wonder if a more compact city oriented streetcar line on N-S orientation is something that can happen or maybe put some leadership behind the north south build out first of the central corridor streetcar line proposed would be a better option. I believe McKee’s northside plan even vaguely references a Jefferson Ave oriented streetcar line. I’m not sure what to cite as an example but why not build a city streetcar line that would support north side as well as support a future BRT run through into North and South County but essentially uses same RoW and stops as a city streetcar?
            The reality of N-S is county won’t put its support behind it which they account for the biggest piece of metro sales tax revenue. So politically its a non-starter until county gets it Westport line, Second, federal funds for large projects are spoken for years so can easily see where Feds say no because Westport line might not meet ridership criteria or if they do it is because they can financial support in the near term but not full blow N-S light rail line.
            More importantly in the political world, the Arch ground improvements whether it be via big corporate donations & big chunk of GRG tax dollars to NGA north city location which county put its support behind and any future convention upgrades are all in the city. I honestly think the Westport line is a political trade off already made for better or worse. In other words, Westport line will be next in line for sales tax dollars already in place once most of the county load to metro for south county is paid off. Just don’t see the county supporting another big project in the city even if it spills into the county until after Westport gets committed. Heck, I’m wondering how convention center ballroom expansion and any upgrades played out not too mention new MLS stadium & Scottrade improvements on the list.


    • that’s not gonna happen. federal matching isn’t what it used to be, and planning for rail takes decades. we’ve already seen the last metrolink expansion that’ll happen in our lifetimes (mine, anyway: your mileage may differ.)

      • Chicagoan

        It’s remarkable how tough it is to make rail happen in the United States.

        Just planning for the construction of a new station is a big process.