ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee tours the proposed National Geospatial Intelligence Agency site here, assessing the chances of St. Louis landing the facility with its 3,000 jobs.
Congressman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, looked out the window of a mini bus at the 100-acre site, dotted with vacant lots, abandoned houses, and many occupied homes that would have to be bought out.
“All these sites work for NGA,” Schiff said, “So I think you then get into the question of where can the location of the facility have the biggest impact on the community in a positive way.”
The tour was organized by Congressman Lacy Clay whose district includes the north St. Louis site near Cass and Jefferson.
Clay noted that the site includes the old Pruitt-Igoe federal housing development, which has been fenced off and overgrown with scrub trees for decades. “That was a failed federal project and I think the NGA would go a long way toward righting that wrong,” Clay said.
Also along for the ride and telling the driver where to turn, was developer Paul McKee who wants the NGA to locate in an area he has been struggling to revive as part of his Northside Redevelopment Project.
McKee listened as a reporter asked Schiff if there was anything about the north St. Louis site that would hurt our chances of winning the project.
“What the NGA will have to weigh is the simplicity of a site that is basically a barren field right now,” Schiff said as an apparent reference to a rival offer from St. Clair County, Illinois to provide open land for the project.
But Schiff also noted that helping a distressed area of north St. Louis get some economic development is also an important factor in the mix.
“They will also be looking at the economic impact on the area,” Schiff said, “and for a facility to move out of St. Louis is a net revenue loss for the city.”
The tour bus was greeted by about a dozen protesters, some of them from the neighborhood, upset that about 40 families face eminent domain to make way for the project.
Neighborhood resident Gustavo Rendon doubts the federal government will pay money for land in north St. Louis, when St. Clair County is offering free land near Scott Air Force base.
“They haven’t even figured out how much it’s going to cost (in north St. Louis), as opposed to getting free land near Scott Air Force Base,” Rendon said. “You would have to be stupid not to take something that is free.”
The other two sites under consideration are in Fenton and Mehlville. Schiff says of the four sites he had only been invited to tour the north St. Louis site.
Congress will make its recommendation on which of the four sites it prefers, then NGA will make a final decision sometime in March.
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