Save North Side STL, an organization dedicated to saving 47 homes on the north side of St. Louis from eminent domain, is asking the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) to remove their neighborhood from the list of locations it is considering for its relocation.
The NGA is currently considering three other sites—none of which would require the condemnation of an entire neighborhood of homes.
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The NGA is looking for a new home. It is currently considering four sites. One of these sites is a neighborhood of 47 much-loved homes housing generations of families on the north side of St. Louis. The city of St. Louis is threatening to use eminent domain to seize these homes if the homeowners do not sell.
“My family has lived in this neighborhood for three generations,” said Charlesetta Taylor, 79. “I love my home and it is not for sale. But the city wants to condemn and raze my neighborhood in order to give it to the NGA, who hasn’t even said that they want it. This is wrong—but the city won’t back down. The NGA needs to remove our neighborhood from the list of places it is considering.”
On February 13, the city declared the north side neighborhood “blighted” and authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire properties for a future development project. Conveniently, one developer – Paul McKee – already owns 64 percent of the parcels in the neighborhood. He’s let his properties fall into a serious state of disrepair – and it’s that very neglect and disrepair that he himself has caused by abandoning his properties that the city points to when it calls the neighborhood “blighted.”
On February 19, St. Louis Development Corporation’s executive director Otis Williams indicated to St. Louis Public Radio that residents could stay in their homes if the NGA does not choose the north side site for its relocation. “We naturally assumed that this meant that the city would not proceed with acquisitions until and if the NGA chooses our neighborhood,” said Sheila Rendon, a longtime homeowner and leader of Save Northside STL.
Then on February 20, property owners were sent a “notice of interest to acquire.” This letter notified them that “should the project [the relocation of the NGA] move forward as planned,” the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) would seek to acquire their property for the explicit purpose of the relocation of the NGA (emphasis added).
But on March 6, property owners were sent a letter stating that “the project is moving forward as planned and the LCRA is currently seeking to acquire [their] property for this purpose.”
“The city is moving forward with acquiring our homes, even though the NGA has not chosen our neighborhood and won’t make a decision until next year—and even though the city itself said that we could stay if the NGA does not choose our neighborhood,” said Rendon. “How can we stay if our homes are seized from us?”