St. Louis Zoo plans to buy former hospital site

By JIM SALTER

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Zoo Association plans to purchase the site of the former Forest Park Hospital, which sits near the zoo, officials said at a news conference Monday.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The association would purchase the 13.5-acre site from Medline Industries Inc. of Mudelein, Ill., the nation’s largest privately-held maker and distributor of health care supplies.

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.

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.

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