Updated at 3:25 with comments from Zoo officials.
Plans to expand the Saint Louis Zoo are moving forward with the zoo's purchase of the 13.5-acre property of the former Forest Park Hospital.
The Saint Louis Zoo Association, a private non-profit, closed the purchase on Friday. Price and contract terms were not disclosed. Plans for the deal were announced in March.
The purchase marks the first time in history that the Zoo has expanded its footprint beyond the 90 acres in Forest Park, says its vice president for architecture and planning, David McGuire.
"Our current footprint is completely filled," McGuire said. "If we want to, for example, add a new exhibit, we've got to take an old exhibit down. The same can be said for office and education spaces, and the spaces we're using for research projects."
McGuire says the planning process will take six to eight months, but initial ideas include more overflow parking.
"But that's really just part of it," he said. "We'd like to look at comprehensive development of the property over there, possibly bringing in some retail."
McGuire says the Zoo has gotten a great response from the neighborhoods that surround the hospital, and says residents will be heavily involved in that process. The team will include traffic engineers, he said, to make sure any additional cars flow easily through the area.
McGuire says a capital campaign will cover the costs of any plan.
Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann
Follow St. Louis Public Radio on Twitter: @stlpublicradio