Zoo seeks to expand with Forest Park Hospital purchase
The Saint Louis Zoo is looking to solve parking problems and a lack of office space in the short term and to create more educational opportunities and possibly exhibition space in the long term with the purchase of Forest Park Hospital.
The Zoo Association has signed a conditional contract with hospital owners Medline Industries to buy the 13.5 acre site for an undisclosed amount. The purchase, to be funded by the association, would give the zoo 15 percent more land than its current 90 acres. The sale is contingent upon the completion of due diligence audits, which should last about four months. Association funds come from fundraising and do not include tax dollars.
The site is the only contiguous piece of land available to the Zoo for expansion, according to a press release. If the deal works out, an eventual animal research center could further boost the city’s position as a scientific front-runner, according to Jeffrey Bonner, Zoo president and CEO.
“We think this property could also be the anchor that positions St. Louis as a life sciences leader, not just for medical or plant sciences but for animal science and conservation,” Bonner said.
The site would initially create additional space for offices, research and laboratories, with extra parking available in the existing hospital garage. Eventually the Zoo would like to develop commercial space, play areas and possibly housing, further connecting the Zoo with Dogtown.
The additional hospital site parking may ultimately allow the Zoo’s current south parking lot to be transformed into exhibition space.
Update: The hospital announced in May 2011 that it was closing its emergency room, and by July 2011 not only had that operation ended but the psychiatric unit had moved to other Alexian medical center locations, according to a local spokesperson for the health system. The hospital group now only has security and core maintenance in the Forest Park building.