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Economy & Business

St. Louis Works To Keep NGA; Not All Residents Approve

The proposed site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis.
National Geospatial Intelligence Agency | provided
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A proposed location for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis drew criticism from residents at a meeting Wednesday night.

The north side location is one of four possible sites the NGA is considering for relocation.

The city initially offered the NGA the former Pruitt-Igoe site, but the 35 acres did not meet the agency’s acreage requirement. St. Louis Redevelopment Corp’s executive director Otis Williams said the footprint of the proposed facility is now almost entirely on the 100 acres north of Cass Avenue. But he said the former housing project site will not sit vacant.

"Pruitt-Igoe is going to be fully developed with something," Williams said. "With Paul McKee’s vision earlier he had projects that were in this area. We will basically move those projects to Pruitt-Igoe and make them more dense."

The new proposed NGA footprint would require those who already live in that area to move.

Shirley Booker said she’s been in her home for 44 years and doesn’t want to leave.

"We need something done in the neighborhood, but to take the few little houses that are here and people who have stuck it out all this time, I think it’s wrong,” she said.

The public hearing, held at the St. Louis Gateway Classic Foundation, was the second to be held in a little over a month. That’s after several residents complained that they had not been notified of the first meeting in December.

While residents said they worry about the proposed facility, St. Louis city officials are eager to keep the NGA and its 3,000 employees within the city limits. They estimate if those jobs move, the city will lose $2.4 million annually in earnings taxes. Mayor Francis Slay said the NGA’s relocation to north city would prevent that loss and help lift the area.

"These are people who are not only going to be working here and making money and paying earnings taxes; they’re going to add to the vitality in this immediate neighborhood that doesn’t have much vitality right now," Slay said.

The city has already begun the process of assembling the land and preparing to use eminent domain. The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority board approved a blight study for the area on Tuesday. It will next go before the Board of Aldermen’s Housing and Urban Development committee later this month.

NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, north city site
Credit (Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)
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John Gillian said he lives "on the yellow line" of the proposed north city NGA site. He said he's willing to move, but he must get a fair price.

There is no guarantee the NGA will choose the north city site. The agency is considering three other locations including the former Chrysler plant in Fenton, the MetLife/Sigma facility in Mehlville and land near Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County.

Once the initial public comment period ends Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin a study of the four sites. It’s expected to release a draft of that report in August, after which another public comment period will take place.

NGA spokeswoman Julia Collins said the agency wants to hear from stakeholders and will take residents’ concerns into consideration.

"Ultimately we’re going to have to make the right decision that’s best for our agency but also for the community," she said. "We’ve been in the community for more than 60 years, and it’s important for us to continue to have a good relationship with the citizens in this area."

John Gillian said his home is "right on the yellow line," pointing to the map of the proposed north city site. He said he'd like to see progress in the area and is willing to move -- if he gets a fair price. 

"But I don't want to be put out," he said.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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