Under a packed white tent Tuesday morning on Cass Avenue in North City, politicians, intelligence and military personnel and other civic leaders gathered to break ground not just on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency‘s new campus but what many hope will be a new future for north St. Louis City.

Officials dug into the ceremonial pile of dirt to mark the beginning of the new $1.7 billion NGA campus at Jefferson and Cass avenues in the St. Louis Place neighborhood. The project entails 712,000 square feet of office space, parking garages, a visitor center, a remote inspection facility and access control points. It is the largest federal investment in St. Louis history.

McCarthy HITT, a joint venture with McCarthy Holdings, HITT Contracting Inc., Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp., Gensler and Akima LLC, was awarded the nearly $711.7 million design-build contract to replace the existing NGA facility in Soulard. Major construction of the new NGA facility (N2W) will begin early next year and is estimated to employ 1,100 workers per day during peak times. Construction is slated to be complete in 2023, with the campus projected to be operational in 2025.

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