Federal agency eyes St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe site for new development

"Baseball in DeSoto Park" by St. Louis' Pruitt-Igoe housing development. (Via Michael Allen / Flickr)

“Baseball in DeSoto Park” by St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe housing development. (Via Michael Allen / Flickr)

More than 40 years after its last high-rise fell, the site of St. LouisPruitt-Igoe public housing development remains basically empty. Design competitions, documentaries, and local developers have all pondered its future. Now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has said it’s considering the 34 acres once home to the infamous housing project as a location for 3,000 jobs.

The website nextSTL reported this week that the NGA—a federal agency created in 1996 to provide maps and data for national defense—is looking at Pruitt-Igoe as it relocates its St. Louis offices from the city’s Kosciusko neighborhood. The site is one of six under consideration, but officials say the decision won’t be made until 2016.

The city recently sought $25 million in infrastructure improvements to the area, which some called a necessary investment regardless of the site’s future. Others disparaged it as a handout to developer Paul McKee, who has an option on the Pruitt-Igoe site and already owns nearly 2,000 other parcels of land in St. Louis. In January the city extended McKee’s option, which he purchased in 2012 for just over $1 million, for another two years.

Pruitt-Igoe demolition in the 1970s.

Pruitt-Igoe demolition in the 1970s.

The infamous post-war development in St. Louis’ DeSoto-Carr neighborhood (now Carr Square) was demolished less than 20 years after its construction in 1954. Photos of its demolition with the Gateway Arch in the distance have come to symbolize the failure of midcentury public housing projects in the U.S.

Several of the development’s smaller buildings remain, including a one-story brick building that served as the development’s electric substation, three churches, a library, a school and a health center.

Pruitt-Igoe before demolition. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Pruitt-Igoe before demolition. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Part of the Pruitt-Igoe site now. (Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr)

Part of the Pruitt-Igoe site now. (Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr)

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