St. Louis development officials are taking public comments as they plan the first of many projects around the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s future western headquarters on the near north side.
The initial projects will involve road and pedestrian improvements along Jefferson Avenue and Parnell Street and will cost $25-$30 million.
It’s the first step toward improving accessibility in the area — something St. Louis Development Corporation Executive Director Otis Williams said the city promised the NGA.
“It is much needed and we hope will lead to what we call the transformation of the area and the improvements that the citizens need and deserve,” he said.
The project plans to put in new road pavement, bike paths and street amenities — like LED lighting, benches and plants.
These are all things Debra Robinson says the neighborhood has needed for a long time.
She’s lived in the St. Louis Place neighborhood for 23 years, and her house is about three blocks from the NGA West site. While she said not all of her neighbors are happy about the incoming NGA campus — or the development that will come along with it — overall Robinson said she thinks it’s a good thing.
“They have not invested money in those areas for years,” she said. “The sidewalks are crumbling. It’s kind of dangerous because you have a lot of vacant lots; the grass is overgrown. I’m kind of short, but it grows as tall as me.”
Robinson does have a few small concerns, including how the city will find space for a planned bike path on her street.
“There’s no place for a bike path because people park there now and it’s not enough room for two cars to get through,” she said.
Michael Allen, a preservationist and part-time professor at Washington University, has been keeping a close watch on the development planned for the area. He views this first project as a sort of “stage setting” for the city’s vision for near north neighborhoods. But he worries that vision may not align with what residents want.
“These public investments in infrastructure are encouraging, but they don't actually answer the question of what is going to end up across the street and whether or not more residential housing is going to be needed or taken through eminent domain like the NGA,” he said.
Many residents are hopeful the addition of the NGA will spur development the area has lacked for decades. Brian Krueger, who moved to the neighborhood 16 years ago, said he wishes the development would have come sooner, but he’s still eager to see it happening now.
“The NGA, you know, that train has left the station; that’s coming full blast,” he said. “I hope we’re smart enough to be able to embrace it and get all the good out of it that we can.”
Krueger moved to the area in hopes that the nearby Old North neighborhood would develop. While growth in that area has slowed, he believes the NGA will help increase his property value.
The city is in the early stages of planning a series of development projects that will take place over the next decade.
The public comment period extends through this month for the initial projects, which are expected to break ground next year.
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