Perspectives: Seeing the Future

I recently had dinner with my younger sister who has been a proud resident of Philadelphia for the last few decades. She was back in St. Louis for the weekend to attend a reunion of former employees of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. She has spent life as a journalist. As dictated by geography, we only get a chance to see each other once or twice a year.

During dinner, my sister mentioned that she thinks about our father, who passed on in 2007, every day. That struck me. I think of my father and mother, who died in 2017, often but not every day. It also made me think about the long list of both terrible and wonderful things that our country and the world has experienced in the last decade or so. And how each of us get to see just a few minor threads of the long rope of history.

As a person gets older, you start to notice things that are planned or already happening that you might not get a chance to see completed. Things like calculating the payback of adding solar panels to your home or planting new trees. Or large-scale community building projects like bridges and highways. Or something as fundamentally important as the future of our country.

People sometimes ask, if you could go back in time, which famous person or persons would you like to meet with and have a chat. It’s an intriguing question, and I am a big history buff. For me, though I would rather go forward in future and see how things turned out.

I often find myself on a golf course wondering how someone tromped through densely-wooded hills and valleys and had the vision to see how a beautiful golf course might be coaxed from that landscape. I have the same admiration for those who have that same vision for the built world.

Last month, CNR editor, Kerry Smith and I had a chance to visit and interview a small roomful of people who are bringing the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s $1.7 billion campus to completion in near north city St. Louis. The 97-acre footprint of the site at the intersection of Jefferson and Cass avenues is a literal phoenix rising from the ashes of urban decay. The site itself is an amazing facility that will accommodate some 3,000 plus people who now work in a near-windowless facility near the AB brewery in the Soulard area. When complete, the site will be a jewel of a project with a 713,000-square-foot, four-story main office building, two parking garages, a visitor center, delivery inspection facility and central utility plant.

Looking at the beautiful new facility, outfitted with all of the fittings and security of a small military base, I can’t help but think of the massive new development of the surrounding area which is sure to come. And that surrounding area is still in dire need of a massive face lift.

The nearby, new Homer G. Phillips healthcare facility is already in operation and we know that big plans, some already revealed, some not, are on the drawing board. These kinds of projects provide comfort and optimism for the future of our society.

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