ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The St. Louis Zoo has signed a conditional contract to purchase the 13.5-acre site of the former Forest Park Hospital.
Mayor Francis Slay was on hand Monday to help unveil the zoo’s potential plans for the site, which sits south of the zoo, just across Interstate 64.
The purchase awaits audits, which could take four months, and is expected to close in late spring. Funding comes from the nonprofit zoo association with no taxpayer funds used.
The contract includes a provision that allows the Zoo Association to terminate the agreement for any reason.
Payment for the site would come from the funds of the St. Louis Zoo Association and not from taxpayer revenue.
Zoo officials say the hospital site is the only contiguous land available to the zoo. The hospital merged in 2010 with another hospital, St. Alexius.
Zoo president and CEO Jeffrey Bonner said that among the options under consideration for the new site would be adding parking spaces, providing educational opportunities or developing space for further animal science and conservation. Some buildings on the hospital campus could be maintained for office, conference and lab space.
“From what we have seen of this property, we firmly believe that this purchase would open up a great opportunity for the zoo to grow and better serve the community and the preservation of wildlife,” Bonner said.
Former Mayor Jim Conway, chairman of the St. Louis Zoo Subdistrict Commission, said the purchase would help the zoo remain as one of the region’s top tourist attractions. The zoo remains one of the few free zoos in the United States.
Conway said a recent study showed that the zoo provides up to $187.5 million in direct and indirect economic benefits to the region each year.