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St. Louis gets green light to use eminent domain on NGA site

A drone photo from September 11, 2018, shows the site of the new headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Zach Dalin Photography
A drone photo from September 11 shows the site of the new headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The city of St. Louis has cleared another hurdle in its effort to secure the land needed for the new headquarters of a federal spy agency.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer on Tuesday condemned the 97-acre site in north St. Louis, where the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s western headquarters will be built. The decision makes it more difficult for others to claim they have any legal rights to the property.

Lawyers for the city have said the move was necessary to block a lawsuit filed by the Bank of Washington in Franklin County. That lawsuit could have given the Bank of Washington some claim to land in the NGA footprint.

A holding company that’s part of the city’s economic development arm already owns the entire site. It plans to transfer the land to the federal government next month.

But a lawsuit filed in July in Franklin County could have jeopardized that transfer.

The Bank of Washington sued the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority and its holdings corporation, arguing that because the city has tried to cut ties with developer Paul McKee, deals to sell some of the land McKee owned in the NGA footprint to the holding company can be undone. The bank financed McKee’s purchase of the land.

If the bank’s lawsuit were successful, the bank could have tried to take back about 60 percent of the land needed for the NGA site.

Federal regulations require that any land needed for projects like the NGA be clear of any claims like the Bank of Washington’s.

Stelzer’s order means a commission will determine the value of the land; then a financial transaction between the city and the LCRAH must be arranged. The ordinance permitting the city to use eminent domain says the money won’t come out of its general budget.

Paul Puricelli of Stone, Leyton & Gershman, the firm representing the Bank of Washington, said that they are “keeping our options open” and might appeal the case after a jury trial.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.

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