Zoo news letterhead

Aug. 2, 2013

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


Commissioners Selected Local Joint Venture Partners Over 11 Other Bidders from Across Nation

The Saint Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, the governing authority for the Saint Louis Zoo, today selected Ahrens Contracting, Inc. and Envirotech over 11 other bidders to remove hazardous materials and demolish buildings at the13.5-acre Forest Park Hospital site.

Based in the city of St. Louis, Ahrens/Envirotech joint venture was the next lowest bidder for the project, bidding $3.9 million—approximately $200,000 above the lowest bidder—Jackson Demolition Services of Schenectady, N.Y..

The Zoo purchased the site Oct. 5, 2012, expanding its land area to further enhance the visitor experience and support wildlife conservation.

"We are excited about completing this major step because these 13.5 acres offer the only contiguous land available to the Zoo. This purchase will shape the Zoo's future for decades to come," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President & CEO, Saint Louis Zoo.

Contracts are expected to be signed in coming weeks. The project will include the removal of such hazardous materials as asbestos and lead paint and demolition of the East parking garage, surrounding buildings on the site and one underground storage tank. One building on the site—the six-story parking garage on Berthold Avenue—will not be part of this project; it will be renovated under a subsequent bidding process and contract.

"We want to assure all the residents and business in the area around the hospital site that we will be sensitive about the times crews work in the area, the closing of any streets or pedestrian walkways and about excess noise and vibration," said David McGuire, Saint Louis Zoo Vice President, Architecture and Planning. "This will be a gradual process that will not involve explosions or major disruption. We will also maintain security at the site."

Ahrens was selected because it is locally licensed as a Class I demolition contractor, as required by the city of St. Louis, something the lowest bidder was not, said The Honorable Jim Conway, former mayor of the city of St. Louis and chairman of the Zoo Subdistrict Commission. "Ahrens and Envirotech have completed more than 100 projects together, including work for Saint Louis Art Museum and Busch Stadium. Both companies have a strong knowledge of the project. They pay taxes here and employ all local union AFL-CIO labor; the lowest bidder uses non-union labor."

He also said that the projected completion schedule Ahrens/Envirotech provided is 60 days shorter than the lowest bidder's. "For all these reasons, the Zoo's volunteer Facilities and Grounds Committee, which includes experienced developers, the Zoo's senior management and all the Commissioners carefully analyzed the bid documents and agreed that the Ahrens-Envirotech joint venture could handle this project more efficiently, avoiding possible cost overruns due to delays with certification and other issues," said Mayor Conway.

Sealed bids were due by 3:00 p.m. on July 17, 2013, and all bids were opened publicly.

Contractors were required to attend one of two pre-bid meetings. A walkthrough of the buildings was included in the second pre-bid meeting to show bidders existing conditions at the site.

The selection of these firms followed a nearly year-long planning effort that began with the selection a design team, led by landscape architectural firm SWT Design.

The Zoo design team includes, in addition to SWT Design, a second St. Louis-based company—the public engagement firm, Vector Communications. SWT Design worked with Chicago-based architect Edward Uhlir, owner of Uhlir Consulting, LLC, to develop the framework plan. Uhlir was a major force in creating the acclaimed Millennium Park in Chicago. This team conducted two open houses to present information about the planning process and engage the public in offering initial suggestions about how the new site could be transformed.

Soon the Zoo will unveil the final framework plan for the site. Reflecting months of research, analysis, planning and stakeholder engagement, this plan broadly outlines goals and guidelines for future development.

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.

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. The Zoo has also installed 4,200-lineal-feet of fencing along the site perimeter.

Zoo security staff conducts routine, frequent patrols. 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.

About the 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.