The National Geospatial Agency decided to keep its Western headquarters in the City of St. Louis. The narrative around this decision is summed up nicely here:
The decision means the city will keep 3,100 jobs, currently housed at the Old Arsenal complex south of Anheuser-Busch brewery, and move them to a $1.75 billion development just northwest of downtown. The move is expected to further the city’s pursuit of redeveloping the near North Side with a massive federal anchor — something that could lure more investment to the struggling area, but also give a major boost to nearby Washington Avenue. (Post-Dispatch)
I get the first part — keeping thousands of jobs within the city. I do hear that many of the 3,100 don’t live in the City of St. Louis — they aren’t thrilled about driving to North City. But, it’s the second part that I don’t get — how does putting many acres behind chainlink fencing help those outside the fence?
The NGA’s high-security entrance will be facing Jefferson Ave — it’ll turn its back on the remaining neighborhood. The NGA as an anchor institution? Hardly:
Anchor institutions are nonprofit institutions that once established tend not to move location. Emerging trends related to globalization—such as the decline of manufacturing, the rise of the service sector, and a mounting government fiscal crisis—suggest the growing importance of anchor institutions to local economies. Indeed, in many places, these anchor institutions have surpassed traditional manufacturing corporations to become their region’s leading employers. If the economic power of these anchor institutions were more effectively harnessed, they could contribute greatly to community wealth building. The largest and most numerous of such nonprofit anchors are universities and non-profit hospitals (often called “eds and meds”). Over the past two decades, useful lessons have been learned about how to leverage the economic power of universities in particular to produce targeted community benefits. (Source)
Once open, the NGA will be like the current site. Thousands will drive there, do their job, drive home. They won’t be running outside the barbwire fence to grab lunch. An employee living in, say Arnold, isn’t suddenly going to move to the neighborhood. A high-security government spy agency will never be a neighborhood anchor.
For those employees driving to work from Arnold, they currently drive 15.8 miles, about 20 minutes or so each way. The new location will be 20 miles, roughly 30 minutes or more. For others, the commute to work will be shorter.
The best we can hope for is its presecence convinces others to consider relocating to the former Pruitt-Igoe site, South across Cass Ave. MetroBus might improve frequency to the area…might.
Jefferson Ave & Cass Ave both need to be updated — fewer & narrower lanes, new sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.
Sadly, our leadership still thinks razing block after block — totally erasing the street grid — is a positive thing to do. Is is 2016 or 1946?
— Steve Patterson