The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new $1.75 billion facility project broke ground on Tuesday, November 26.
The new NGA campus will be located at the corner of Jefferson and Cass avenues. This area is within a Promise Zone, which includes parts of North City and North St. Louis County and was established under the Obama administration. Promise Zones are designated high-poverty communities where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase job creation, economic investment and a whole host of other things.
“President Obama believed, as did I, that this neighborhood is special,” said U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) at the groundbreaking ceremony, “and it deserves a chance to make a comeback with a magnificent federal anchor facility like the new NGA.”
Through the facility’s construction, the federal agency has a significant opportunity to provide jobs to the surrounding blighted area. Up to 1,100 workers could be employed per day in 2022 during peak construction, according to projections from the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which is overseeing design and construction.
However, the USACE will not aim to employ as many minority or local residents as union and community leaders have been advocating for several years.
In February 2016, the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council wrote a letter to then-NGA director Robert Cardillo proposing that at least 37.81 percent of all labor hours on the facility would go to minorities, which more than doubles the inclusion goals set forth in federal guidelines. The St. Louis union council also proposed that at least 23.28 percent of all labor hours would go to St. Louis city residents and 6.9 percent of all labor hours would go to women.
These goals are based on an extensive disparity study, which found that St. Louis city has the capacity to employ this number of minorities.
In an exclusive 2016 interview with Cardillo, The American asked what he thought about the council’s proposal. Cardillo said, “The Army Corps will follow all federal guidelines. I appreciate that that letter went beyond that. I would just have to defer to the Army to speak to how they make decisions about what percentage ultimately is awarded.”
According to the fact sheet, the Next NGA West project’s workforce goals will be 14.7 percent minority and 6.9 percent female, which are the federal standard.
Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said that those federal guidelines on employing minority and women were established in the 1960s. Recent disparity studies show that those goals do not reflect St. Louis, he said.
“It may be the largest government project for the St. Louis region ever,” Pruitt said. “But I’m not going to buy into this narrative that it is an economic shot in the arm for black folks. It is less than what we would get in a non-government, private project that would rely on city incentives because they would have to go by the disparity study’s goals.”
Pruitt said he believes the project is good for the region overall, but African-American workers and contractors will be benefiting far less than their counterparts — despite the project being in a Promise Zone. And the majority of contractors and workers will not be from North St. Louis, he said.
The joint venture design-construction team, McCarthy HITT, is implementing a Project Specific Inclusion Plan, “that establishes specific maximum achievable opportunities for qualified minority and female participation on all aspects of construction and is designed to meet and/or exceed the Department of Labor goals,” according to the fact sheet. The plan’s goals for business enterprise participation are 25 percent minority-owned and 5 percent woman-owned.
The American is scheduled to meet with McCarthy HITT team members familiar with the inclusion plan later in December.
The new facility will include approximately 712,000 square feet of office space, parking garages, a visitor’s center, an inspection facility and control access points. Plans are for the facility to be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Silver standards for environmental sustainability.
“This groundbreaking is a testament to the thoughtful planning, hard work and good faith of NGA’s people and partners in the St. Louis area, Missouri and across the county,” NGA Director Vice Admiral Robert Sharp said at the groundbreaking.
The new site in North St. Louis will replace NGA’s current facility in South St. Louis, which dates back to the 1840s. The decision to build a new facility came after a series of planning studies showed it would be less costly, quicker and less disruptive to NGA’s mission to build a new facility rather than upgrade NGA’s current facilities, according to the NGA’s press release.
It has not yet been decided what will happen to NGA’s current campus, which also is owned by the U.S. Air Force, when NGA vacates the South St. Louis facility.
“For more than 70 years, the men and women at the NGA in St. Louis have played an important role in keeping America safe,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence. “I’ll keep working to ensure we have the resources needed to get this facility built as soon as possible.”