Property owners filled the courtroom in the old St. Louis Civil Courts Building on Thursday.
It had taken a long time to get to this day.
Several of the residents who lived or owned property within the site of what will be the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new $1.75 billion facility fought to get more money. Others were simply tied up with title issues or liens.
"I’ve been waiting for this day and dreading it," Adrienne Harris said.
Harris runs an adult daycare business out of 2525 Benton St., in the home her mother bought more than 40 years ago.
The commissioners appointed by Judge David Dowd found that the city should pay Harris $195,000 for the business. But in order to meet state regulations for her facility she sunk much of her retirement into the home and had a nearly $50,000 loan.
In the end she received $136,000.
Harris said she’s set to close on a building on Monday and while the sale price is $82,000, she estimates it will take another $100,000 to renovate it. She said the St. Louis Development Corporation, which headed up the effort to get the NGA, has promised she won’t go out of business.
Still, she’s not happy that the home her mother left to her will be demolished and she’ll be left to build her business anew.
"This is a sad chapter in my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it no matter what they put there. It’s a tragedy to me," Harris said.
Not everyone felt that way.
Paula Lotts stepped out of the courthouse with a smile on her face. She said after 52 years in a home at 2318 Mullanphy St., she’s happy to be in a new place.
"I moved on Greer and I love it," she said. "I love the house I got, love the people who worked with me to get this house."
Lotts said she had known for decades that eventually a development would come and take their homes.
"It shouldn’t have been a shock for people. It was bound to happen," she said.
Another group of property owners will receive payments next month when a second court hearing is held. St. Louis officials expect almost everyone to be moved from the 100-acre site in September with demolition of homes and businesses starting in October.
The city will hand over the land to the NGA sometime next year.
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