ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It’s not a done deal yet, but officials with the St. Louis Zoo announced Monday that the Zoo Association has signed a conditional contract with Medline Industries, Inc. to purchase the 13.5 acre site where the Forest Park Hospital currently stands.
After years of budget woes and declining income, the hospital is currently home only to a small psychiatric unit and medical offices that are leased out.
No taxpayer revenue would be used for the purchase, which would be for an undisclosed amount.
“The Zoo has always been a prudent steward of its resources and would not consider this purchase if it did not qualify as a financially wise move,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph D., Zoo President and CEO. “In the past few weeks, we have brainstormed dozens of ideas for the site.
“It could help the Zoo further its mission of enhancing the visitor experience by increasing available parking,” Bonner suggested.
And to do that, the St. Louis Zoo might borrow a page from the Disney World playbook when it comes to moving visitors across a busy I-64 that separates the Zoo from the proposed “Zoo South” campus.
“We’ve looked at five or six different ways of getting people across,” Bonner said. “They range from the relatively inexpensive – rubber-tired vehicles – to what could be very, very expensive – some sort of dedicated monorail-type system that moves back and forth.”
Meanwhile, the contract is conditioned upon completion of multiple due diligence audits.
The contract includes a provision that allows the Zoo Association to terminate the agreement for any reason and at its sole discretion within the expected 120 day due diligence period.
Former St. Louis Mayor Jim Conway, who chairs the Zoo Subdistrict Commission, said they’re thrilled that the Zoo Association is considering this purchase.
“The St. Louis Zoo is not only a treasured institution but a major engine for economic growth in our region,” he said, citing a recent RCGA study showing that the Zoo annually provides as much as $187.5 million in direct and indirect economic benefits to the region, and draws more visitors than the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
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