NGA Director Robert Cardillo has confirmed the preliminary choice of the north city site as the future home of the western headquarters for the intelligence agency. The final decision came after a more than two month public comment period which political leaders in Illinois used to repeatedly bash the St. Louis City site.
Challenges to the decision may remain as those hoping for a site near Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East have vowed to push for an investigation regarding site selection. In a contorted argument, Illinois officials have repeatedly praised the NGA as security experts, while telling everyone that the agency is ignoring its own security with the new location.
While the St. Clair County, IL site was noted as a more secure site, the chosen site in St. Louis was determined to meet security requirements as well. The more urban site was noted to be nearer existing critical industry and education partnerships, a better attractor of future employees, and be less expensive overall:
The accusation is that the site selection was a political decision. Again, a bit of a contorted argument, which, even if true, would seem to imply that the Illinois delegation lost the political battle. However, the NGA, in its initial decision outlined a number of specific findings that led to the 99-acres in St. Louis. Those can be found below.
This past September, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that HDR Architecture of Omaha, had won a $100M “firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery contract with options to support the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency design and construction of a new campus” in the St. Louis area. That announcement noted an estimated completion date of fall 2022.
The massive project seems to have brought out the worst in regional politics. While collaboration was perhaps only surface deep on smaller issues, the prospect of a $1.75B project led to open hostility following the preliminary decision in March. For the Metro East, there was a lot a stake as it continues to lose more population than the City of St. Louis, per recent Census estimates. The east side will be gaining a large Amazon fulfillment center, and with it as many as 1,000 jobs.
Our March 31 report:
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.