Updated 4:36 p.m. with comment from Jeffrey Bonner.
The Saint Louis Zoo has announced plans to buy the Forest Park Hospital site on Oakland Avenue, just south of Highway 40. The acquisition would allow the zoo to expand its parking, research, and office space.
The Saint Louis Zoo Association signed a conditional contract with the site owner, Medline Industries, Inc., on March 8. The price and contract terms were not disclosed.
Payment for the site would come from the funds of the Saint Louis Zoo Association, a private nonprofit organization, and not from taxpayer revenue.
Zoo president and CEO Jeffrey Bonner said at the request of the seller, the Zoo cannot disclose the purchase price at this time.
The hospital site offers the only contiguous land available to the Zoo -- the second smallest of the major accredited zoos in Missouri.
Planned uses of the new site include a facility to house the zoo's new Institute of Conservation Medicine, whose research focuses on diseases that affect the conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife species, and on the movement of diseases between wildlife, domestic animals and humans.
"Most of the novel or emergent diseases, the new diseases, are going to come from wildlife populations," Bonner said. "We've seen that in recent history. Ebola, SARS, AIDS, avian influenza, monkey pox, these are diseases that have jumped from wildlife populations to our population. So we need to study that."
Other animal research labs could also relocate from their current locations at the zoo to the new site.
The expansion would also allow the zoo to increase parking available to visitors and improve traffic flow around the zoo.
The acquisition 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.
Closing for the transaction is expected in late spring.