T-Rex: One Start Up At a Time

Written by Dick Fleming | Originally Published in Geospatial World While the early focus of St. Louis’ Downtown North Insight District has been on the dramatic adaptive reuses of both the 226,000 square foot former HQ of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch becoming the new home for 1,400 employees of Square and CashApp, and of the […]

Written by Dick Fleming | Originally Published in Geospatial World

While the early focus of St. Louis’ Downtown North Insight District has been on the dramatic adaptive reuses of both the 226,000 square foot former HQ of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch becoming the new home for 1,400 employees of Square and CashApp, and of the 720,000 square foot Art Deco Globe Building becoming the St. Louis “location of choice” for major Geospatial Intelligence and other tech firms — a third founding partner in the creation of this new Urban Insight District at the Heart of America is T-REX.

T-REX, located virtually around the corner from The Globe Building, was founded in 2011 as nonprofit technology innovation and entrepreneurial development facility with a mission to support inclusive economic development in these areas. The organization provides programming to support entrepreneurs, researchers, and workforce providers and affordable flex space for some 200 entrepreneurial firms and innovation support organizations.

In addition to T-REX’s working partnership with fellow District Founders Jim McKelvey and John Berglund, redevelopers of the former Post-Dispatch HQ Building and Steve Stone, developer of The Globe Building — T-REX President and Executive Director Dr. Patty Hagen has added a broad spectrum of enhancements to the early-stage tech ecosystem in the District, focusing on the development of early-stage Geospatial-Intelligence firms.

Hagen notes, “With public sector and philanthropic support as a physical base, T-REX developed The Geospatial-Innovation Center, powered by Bayer — in T-Rex 16,000 square foot creative workspace dedicated to “connecting and growing our geospatial community — where startups, researchers, government partners, and supportive GEOINT sector leaders can collaborate and share resources in an atmosphere of active learning classrooms, cutting- edge interactive and remote technology, and spacious state of the art office space.”

T-REX recently received a federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to build out an Extended Reality and Simulation Lab with the latest equipment and technologies that can support early-stage entrepreneurial development as well as university researchers and students.

Additionally, T-REX has established “Proving Grounds,” another new resource that is providing datasets and data science expertise in partnership with Riverside Research to advance testing and development by startup companies and university partners.

NGA’s Moonshot Labs at T-Rex

In addition to this new Geospatial Innovation Center, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) partnered with T-REX to open a new geospatial technology lab of its own.

Moonshot Labs is advancing efforts between NGA, industry, and academic players in the region. Moonshot Labs is “NGA’s first ever unclassified innovation space where NGA professionals can work directly with colleagues in the geospatial intelligence community.”

The presence of Moonshot Labs and the T-REX Geospatial Innovation Center has also attracted the presence of individual mentors to startups, such as Planet, Esri, Teknoluxion, Freedom Consulting, Riverside Research, Peraton, UNCOMN, 1904 Labs, and OmniFederal.

The T-REX Building in Downtown St. Louis

Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) and Other Partnerships

Dr. Hagen also noted the recent successful creation of a five-year Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with NGA, in which T-REX is serving as the NGA’s outreach and implementation partner for the region in the areas of workforce, education, technology transfer, and innovation. In this partnership role, T-REX brings together national and local partners to accomplish NGA objectives.

Some of the national partnerships T-REX has established in its programmatic plans include the Wright Brothers Institute, Open Geospatial Consortium, US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, and Riverside Research. Local partners include Gateway Global, Small Business Empowerment Center, Small Business Development Center, the Minority Business Development Center, and multiple universities.

Continuing Progress at Square and The Globe Building

Meanwhile, progress continues in other portions of the Downtown North District at both Square/CashApp and The Globe Building — and, of course, at the USD 1.75-billion, 3,100-job NGA/ West 100-acre campus, just five blocks north of the new District.

The 3,100-job NGA/West HQ is scheduled to open in early 2026, along with adjacent developments in the 1,500-acre NorthSide Regeneration Mixed-Use Development surrounding the 100-acre NGA HQ Campus. Jim McKelvey and John Berglund of The Starwood Group continue to onboard employees from Square and CashApp in the renovated former HQ of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which will ultimately accommodate 1,400 employees — even as Starwood considers future development opportunities in and around the new District.

With firms such as Maxar, Sweden-based T-Kartor’s US headquarters, Ball Aerospace, and Geospatial Magazine’s US HQ —The Globe Building has recently added General Dynamics as a key Geospatial tenant.

Further, the build-out of a one-of-its-kind Midwestern multi-tenant national security infrastructure in the District adds a vital GEOINT asset. Magnitude of the opportunity The recently published Global Industry Outlook Report documented that “the Geospatial Intelligence sector is projected to grow to USD 1.44-trillion by 2030.”

Regarding the emerging geospatial ecosystem in the Downtown North Insight District, Senator Roy Blunt recently observed, “St. Louis now has the opportunity to become more competitive from an economic and entrepreneurial development standpoint in attracting and expanding geospatial intelligence firms of all types.”

St. Louis Downtown North District civic partners Patty Hagen, CEO, T-Rex; Steve Stone, Owner/Managing Partner, The Globe Building; John Berglund, Managing Partner, The StarWood Group; meeting with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt at The Globe BuildingThe magnitude of growth of both the defense and commercial Geospatial-Intelligence sector underscores the immense potential for St. Louis and the Downtown North Insight District to become a centerpiece of St. Louis’ emergence as a Global GEOINT Hub.

Apropos of St. Louis’ focus on Geospatial Intelligence and proximity to the new NGA/West HQ, the Global Institute on Innovation Districts are “actively advancing strategies that support geographies uniquely positioned to drive new waves of innovative, inclusive, and sustainable growth, namely, Innovation Districts.”

The Global Institute describes these Innovation Districts as: “the ultimate mash-up of anchor institutions — [such as Square, The Globe, and T-REX] — companies, start-ups, and ecosystem intermediaries in hyper-local geographies that leverage density, proximity, and accessibility — actively advancing a ‘collaborate to compete agenda’ to some of the world’s most complex challenges.”

These elements and values are at the heart of this new Downtown North Insight District in St. Louis, in response to the potential represented by the geographic proximity to the new NGA/West HQ Campus, just several blocks away.

A “collaboration to compete” environment is quite evident in the civic partnership between The Globe Building developer Steve Stone, Starwood Development Partners Jim McKelvey and John Berglund, and T-REX’s Patty Hagen.