Zoo news letterhead

Dec. 5, 2012

Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900
Susan Gallagher, ext. 4633
Christy Childs, ext. 4639; Joanna Bender, ext. 4703

Saint Louis Zoo Association Announces Next Steps For Forest Park Hospital Property, Filing of Purchase Price, Gift from Seller

Public Meeting on This Once-in-a-Lifetime Expansion Opportunity Set for Dec. 11

The Saint Louis Zoo Association today announced the launching of master planning for the 13.5-acre Forest Park Hospital site the Association purchased Oct. 5.

As a first step in developing the "Saint Louis Zoo Expansion Project," the Zoo and its planning team are hosting an open house to present information about the planning process and to engage the public in offering suggestions about how the new site at 6150 Oakland Ave. could be transformed.

The open house is set for Dec. 11, 2012, between 4 and 7 p.m. at the Zoo's Living World at the North Entrance, One Government Drive in Forest Park. More details are available at www.stlzoo.org/expansion.

This open house is part of a six- to eight-month process to create a vision and plan for this expansion. That process began with a July 2012 request for qualifications that led to the selection of a planning team. That team includes two St. Louis-based companies---planning and landscape architectural firm SWT Design and the public engagement firm, Vector Communications. SWT Design will work with Chicago-based architect Edward Uhlir, owner of Uhlir Consulting, LLC, to develop a visioning plan. Uhlir was a major force in creating the acclaimed Millennium Park in Chicago.

In late spring or early summer of 2013, the Zoo expects to announce its framework plan, including specifics on any structures targeted for removal.

Gift to Association Announced

In addition, the Association announced a $5.8 million gift amount related to the Association's acquisition of the Forest Park Hospital property. At closing, the gift amount had been subject to a confidentiality agreement with the seller. The difference between the nearly $12 million appraised value and the $6 million that the Association paid is being treated as a $5.8 million charitable donation to the Association from the former owner, Medline Industries, Inc. Based in Mundelein, Ill., Medline is the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of medical and surgical supplies in the United States.

The Association today announced that Elephant Oasis in the Zoo's River's Edge has been named Medline Elephant Oasis in recognition of this significant charitable donation. The gift will be recognized and a sign unveiled at the Dec. 27 birthday celebration for Raja, the first elephant born at the Saint Louis Zoo. Raja turns 20 at this special birthday celebration, which will include presents, cake for visitors and much more. Raja is father of three of the nine members of the family of elephants now at the Zoo.

Payment for the site came from the funds of the Association and not from taxpayer revenue. The Association is a private, nonprofit organization whose volunteer board is made up of business and community leaders, working with the Zoo to provide leadership for fundraising and other activities at the Zoo.

"We want to offer our deep appreciation to our volunteer leadership for having the foresight to make this purchase and to Medline for their generous gift to the Association," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President & CEO, Saint Louis Zoo. "This allows the Zoo to expand its land area to further enhance the visitor experience and support wildlife conservation."

Site Protection, Beautification

Since announcing the possible purchase of the hospital site in March 2012, the Zoo has worked to protect and improve the site. The Zoo's horticultural and maintenance staffs have pruned existing vegetation, removed shrubs and mowed grass at the site. In October, the Zoo installed 4,200-lineal-feet of fencing along the site perimeter.

Zoo security staff began routine, frequent patrols in March. Cameras have been installed to monitor facilities, and during busy times at the Zoo, employees park at former hospital lots to free up more than 200 parking spaces in closer lots for Zoo visitors.

In reviewing the entire process, the Honorable Jim Conway, former mayor of the city of St. Louis and chairman of the Zoo Subdistrict Commission, commented on its transparency, citing the number of meetings with the public and civic and government leaders and Association members.

The March 12 announcement of the Association's tentative agreement to purchase the property was followed by 15 meetings with members of the Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, the Zoo Association Board, the site planning committee and multiple government officials. In addition, the Board of Aldermen of the City of Saint Louis approved the Zoo's concept plan for the site and revised the zoning to accommodate the Zoo's use.

The planning committee, which included Zoo volunteer leadership, the chair of the commission, civic leaders and other stakeholders interested in determining how the site would be developed, analyzed the benefits of the property, which was originally listed for sale in November 2010 for $18.9 million. The sale price dropped to $16.9 million in June 2011.

Extensive Due Diligence

Prior to closing on the transaction, the Association commissioned a licensed appraiser to determine the value of the property after remediation and demolition of most of the buildings on the site. The appraiser set that post-demolition/remediation value at approximately $6.7 million.

"However, when you consider the value of the property to the Zoo alone, clearly this site is worth much more than the stripped-down appraised value of the land only," Dr. Bonner said. "It was determined through due diligence that the parking structure alone holds significant value."

One contractor estimated repair costs for the site's seven-level, 1980s-era parking facility at $2.9 million. The rough estimate for rebuilding a parking structure of this size with its 567 spaces would be approximately $9 million.

In addition to market value analyses, the Zoo employed a range of experts to review the condition of the site prior to closing. These studies included geotechnical and environment assessments and analysis of drainage, flooding and seismic safety. Consultants also provided space planning and architectural services. They produced studies on traffic flow, parking and space utilization. They assessed mechanical, electrical and plumbing and fire protection needs and also offered advice on necessary permits and regulatory applications.

"We tapped the very best volunteer leaders who offered us a range of advice and counsel and who used their legal, development, real estate and financial expertise to ensure that we got the best price for these services and this property and that the public and visitors to this fine institution were well-served," said Mayor Conway.

"The level of discussion and transparency around this acquisition was unparalleled," added Mary Campbell, president of the Saint Louis Zoo Association. "I was proud to be part of a remarkable team of leaders who worked tirelessly to make sure that this site would help the Zoo build upon the nation's best zoo experience."

About Saint Louis Zoo
Named America's #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts about 3,000,000 visitors a year.