Saint Louis Zoo Association Agrees to Conditional Contract to Purchase Forest Park Hospital Property

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Purchase Could Offer Zoo Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Buy this Site, Allowing Zoo to Further Enhance Visitor Experience
The Saint Louis Zoo Association on March 8 signed a conditional contract with Medline Industries, Inc., to purchase Medline's 13.5-acre Forest Park Hospital site at 6150 Oakland Ave. in the city of St. Louis.

The price and contract terms were not disclosed. Based in Mundelein, Ill., Medline is the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of health care supplies in the United States.

Payment for the site would come from the funds of the Saint Louis Zoo 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.

The hospital site offers the only contiguous land available to the Zoo -- the second smallest of the major accredited zoos in Missouri.

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 due diligence period. Due diligence is expected to be completed within the next 120 days.

"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., Dana Brown President & CEO, Saint Louis Zoo.

"In the past few weeks, we have brainstormed dozens of ideas for this site. For example, it could help the Zoo further its mission of enhancing the visitor experience by increasing available parking, offering relief for traffic congestion and providing educational opportunities. We think this property could also be the anchor that positions St. Louis as a life sciences leader not just for medical or plant sciences but for animal science and conservation. Some buildings on this site could possibly serve as office, conference and lab space for conservation initiatives."

"By pursuing this approach, we could create high quality jobs in our region and enhance our community's position as a leader in plant and life sciences by bringing together our great science-focused businesses and institutions."

"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. If we are successful in completing this acquisition, we will begin a careful planning process, involving a range of stakeholders, to determine how best to use the new property and to re-purpose buildings there for the long-term benefit of the Zoo, our mission to preserve animals, our visitors and neighbors, the park and region."

The Honorable Jim Conway, former mayor of the city of St. Louis and chairman of the Zoo Subdistrict Commission, enthusiastically welcomed the announcement, adding that the purchase could help the Zoo remain the region's top tourist attraction. "We are thrilled that the Zoo Association is pursuing this purchase," he said. "The Saint Louis Zoo is not only a treasured institution but a major engine for economic growth in our region." He cited a recent study by the Regional Chamber and Growth Association showing that the Zoo provides as much as $187.5 million in direct and indirect economic benefits to the region annually.

"In pursuing this opportunity at a very reasonable price, we would be building upon the nation's best zoo experience by ensuring greater accessibility to the Zoo and Forest Park," added Mary Campbell, president of the Saint Louis Zoo Association. "This critical need was identified through a planning process involving more than 200 Zoo and community leaders and is part of the Strategic Plan adopted in 2007."

If conditions warrant, the closing for the transaction would be set for late spring 2012. The closing would jumpstart extensive planning for the site's future use. "In this planning process, we would involve local officials, our nearby Dogtown neighbors and a range of other stakeholders to make the best possible use for this site," Dr. Bonner added.

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.