St. Louis considering options to keep federal agency jobs -

St. Louis considering options to keep federal agency jobs

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By Adam McDonald By Adam McDonald

( -- Neighbors on North Market Street call a certain house on the block, the "big house". Built in the late 1800s, it stands three stories tall, boasts two kitchens, and multiple bedrooms.  It was also home to three generations of Karen Taylor's family.

"It's all the stories.  Its our oral history.  It's the love.  It's the values that were put forth and lived before us," said Taylor while taking a News 4 crew on a tour of the expansive home. 

Taylor's 79 year old mother still lives in the house and acknowledges the neighborhood has seen many changes over the years.  Neighbors have passed away or moved on and many other homes have fallen into disrepair.  Taylor says their family home is still used for reunions, holidays, and she wants to see future generations enjoy it.

"Our family home is definitely a priority.  What's happening in the community is definitely a priority.  Even though it is 'blighted', we are not blighted," added Taylor.

Taylor delivered a similar message to the aldermen of the Housing, Urban Development, and Zoning Committee on Wednesday morning as it discussed Board Bill 263. 

If passed, the bill would pave the way for the city to acquire land in the 3rd and 5th city wards in hopes of enticing the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to move jobs to those neighborhoods.

The NGA says it has outgrown its current location - near the riverfront and south of downtown St. Louis.  The agency is shopping for a new site to build a new facility for its three thousand employees and considering Mehlville, Fenton, St. Clair County, and North St.Louis. 

The city of St. Louis, facing the possibility of losing over 3,000 high-paying jobs and the city earnings tax money that comes with those jobs, is bidding for the NGA's new site.  And, the city is looking at acquiring more land.

"It's a tight timetable.  By the end of the year, they have to have the land requirement," said 5th Ward Alderman Tammika Hubbard.  She's sponsoring Board Bill 263 and Ward 3 Alderman Freeman Bosley Senior is a co-sponsor.  

Hubbard says the city needs to make a big move to keep the NGA jobs in the city and in the neighborhoods in her ward.  The bill includes an eminent domain component and some aldermen argued that the city should consider other options.

"I wouldn't do it to my grandmother or Ms. Johnson who lives next door to me.  So, I definitely can't do it in any other community," said Ward 27 Alderman Chris Carter.

Hubbard says the city would help residents relocate and that eminent domain would serve as a last resort to pave the way for redevelopment.  

Even if the city acquires the necessary land, there is no guarantee that the NAG would pick North St. Louis as its new site.  

Wednesday morning, the bill didn't make it past committee and the full board of aldermen won't be asked to vote on it this week.  Alderman Hubbard said she'll likely look at the bill again and offer more detail on the acquisition plan, saying the city has too much to lose if the NGA picks a different site.

The NGA says it'll make a decision by March, 2016.


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