ST. LOUIS (AP) — Work is beginning on a $1.7 billion National Geospatial Intelligence Agency campus in north St. Louis.
Ground was broken Tuesday, Nov. 26, on the 97-acre site, where workers will map and analyze imagery for military and intelligence experts.
The project’s kickoff marks almost four years since the federal government chose the site. While the NGA had called the south Mississippi riverfront near the Anheuser-Busch brewery home for decades, the agency needed to modernize its facility. That spurred a competition within the region to woo the facility and its 3,000-plus high-paying jobs.
NGA leaders opted to stay in the urban core, hoping it would help them better attract talent. But that meant dozens of properties had to be bought out and cleared to make way for the new campus.
Demonstrators, some of whom had lost their homes to the project, gathered across the street to protest.
Mayor Lyda Krewson joined federal, state and local leaders in breaking ground on the new campus.
“This is a great day for the city of St. Louis, one that has been several years in the making,” Krewson said.
The new NGA campus, which is the largest federal investment in the City in history, will be at the corner of Jefferson and Cass avenues. It is scheduled to be open and fully operational by 2025.
“The new campus will be a secure, flexible, cutting-edge intelligence facility,” NGA Director Vice Admiral Robert Sharp said. “NGA’s new campus will be built with spaces that will facilitate information-sharing and collaboration among NGA’s and St. Louis’s talented innovators,” Sharp said.
The campus will include offices, parking garages, a visitors center, an inspection facility, control access points and wireless technologies.
The NGA picked north St. Louis as its site in 2016, and the city transferred the 97 acres to the Air Force in December 2018. Twenty-seven city blocks were cleared, uncovering more than 60,000 archaeological artifacts.
That work was completed with nearly 40 percent minority-owned and 45 percent women-owned contractor participation. St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies and Falls Church, Va.-based HITT Contracting were selected as the design-build team.
Krewson noted that a major goal of the project was to help the surrounding area.
“I want to recognize the invaluable contributions of our Project Connect partners who worked with residents and businesses in eight north St. Louis neighborhoods to ensure this project will benefit the entire community,” she said.
The new site in north St. Louis will replace NGA’s current facility, which dates back to the 1840s, in south St. Louis.
“NGA has been proud to call St. Louis home for the past 70 years,” Sharp said. “I’m excited to see what NGA’s people and partners in the St. Louis region can accomplish together for the next 70.”