It is, by far, the biggest competition in metro-east history. And it revolves around this question: Will a nearly 200-acre tract of land, owned by St. Clair County and adjacent to Scott Air Force Base, become the home for a $1.6 billion headquarters building for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency?
The Scott site is one of four candidate sites under consideration for what is being called NGA West, which will bring 3,000 jobs to the winner from its current location near downtown St. Louis.
A key clue as to the identity of the winning site was supposed to arrive in the next few weeks — in the form of environmental-impact statements to be issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on each of the four sites. The chosen site will provide an 800,000-square-foot home for the mapping and intelligence support agency.
But on Thursday, an NGA spokeswoman announced that there will be a two-month delay on the announcements of the environmental-impact statements.
“It’s going to take a little more time to add all the details,” said Julia Collins, the spokeswoman. “I think right now we’re looking at mid-October.”
Public hearings on the impact statements’ findings will likely be scheduled for the end of October, with the final winning site to be announced by March 2016.
Collins issued a statement to the media that provided some background on the delay.
“Originally scheduled for release at the end of August, the delay is required to ensure the study results are adequately reflected in the draft publication,” Collins wrote. “The later release is not expected to impact the agency’s timeline to announce a site selection in spring 2016.”
CH2M, a global consulting, design, construction and operations firm based in suburban Denver, is performing the environmental-impact assessments.
Public meetings will be held near the end of October on the impact assessments to allow for comments on the draft. Details, including times and locations, will be announced in the near future, according to Collins.
Besides the site adjacent to Scott, the three sites under consideration to replace the aging St. Louis NGA facility near the Anheuser-Busch brewery are:
▪ The site of the demolished Pruitt-Igoe housing project in North St. Louis.
▪ The old Met Life insurance building in South St. Louis County.
▪ The razed Chrysler car plant off Interstate 44, in Fenton, Mo.
In recent days, however, events have occurred that have raised cocerns whether the proposed North St. Louis site remains a viable candidate for the NGA West facility.
St. Louis voters last week ago rejected a $180 million bond issue that would have provided $15 million for infrastructure improvements to streets around the old Pruitt Igoe housing complex, which would have helped make it more attractive to NGA officials.
In the wake of the bond issue defeat, St. Louis leaders said they would find other ways to finance the money needed for the site improvements, including tapping into a federal loan program run by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments to pay for roadway improvements.
But James Wild, the council’s executive director, threw cold water on such plans.
“We don’t provide loans,” Wild said.
Otis Williams, the executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, expressed confidence the failed bond issue does not represent a setback for the North St. Louis site’s chances to win the highly coveted NGA facility.
The proposed North St. Louis site is the center of the region and offers proximity to the homes of the existing site’s workers, Williams said.
“And we also think it has the opportunity if located there to essentially enhance our redevelopment activity around the site,” he said.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.