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St. Louis may get $20 million loan to prepare site for NGA

(image from GEO St. Louis)

The city of St. Louis is considering taking out a loan of up to $20 million to help buy land for the proposed north city site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

bill, sponsored by 5th Ward AlderwomanTammika Hubbard, outlines how the city would use three buildings as collateral for the loan. The bill was introduced to the Board of Aldermen on Friday.

The NGA is choosing from among four locations in the St. Louis region, including the north city site, two spots in St. Louis County and an area near Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. The federal agency will not make a decision until next year.

St. Louis Development Corporation executive director Otis Williams said the city must have option agreements on all the land within the 100-acre north city footprint prior to that decision.

"We need to be able to show that we have one ownership and that we have plans or have the resources to clear the site and be able to turn it over to the NGA," Williams said.

The St. Louis Development Corporation is housed in 1520 Market Street, one of the three buildings that would be used for collateral. The other two include 1415 N. 13th St., a Forestry Division and Facilities Management facility, and 1900 Hampton Ave., a Street Department facility.

The bill lays out how the St. Louis Municipal Finance Corporation, which is overseen by the comptroller’s office, would refinance 1520 Market Street as part of a $20 million loan. If the property is not refinanced, the loan would not exceed $13 million.

Williams said the city expects the NGA to choose the north city location, but if the agency goes elsewhere he said any of the loan money spent would be recouped.

"We will surely be able to take advantage of any expenditure in the sense of having the site prepared for future development," he said.

If the NGA does choose the location, the city could use half of the employees’ earnings taxes to help pay off the loan. Currently, the 3,100 NGA employees located at the facility south of downtown pay about $2.4 million in earnings taxes annually.

The city also has included $15 million for the project in a bond issue that will go before voters in August. Williams said that money would only be available if the NGA chooses the site.

Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill Monday that would allow the state to create a Tax Increment Financing agreement with the city if the NGA chooses the north city location. The measure would allow the state to take up to $12 million annually in withholding taxes fromNGAemployees to pay off the city’s costs of keeping the facility.

The city's Housing, Urban Development and Zoning committee will consider Hubbard’s bill Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.