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Planning Commission okays Forest Park/BJC land deal

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The land in front of Barnes-Jewish Hospital includes tennis courts and a playground (photo from cwegreenspace.blogspot.com)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The St. Louis Planning Commission has approved a plan to let Barnes-Jewish Hospital expand onto part of Forest Park. The 12 acres that Barnes wants sits east of Kingshighway. The hospital has leased part of that land since 1973 for an underground parking garage; city tennis courts and a playground sit above ground.

Deputy Mayor Barb Geisman says a new long-term lease could mean another $1.7 million a year for park maintenance. "This little dogleg is never really considered by people as part of the park," Geisman said Wednesday of the patch of land, which is separated from the rest of the park.

"And changing the land use plan to reflect an institutional use of that park reflects what many people already think it is."

But dozens of Central West End and Forest Park Southeast neighborhood residents told the commission they use the area regularly. Other critics say property values in the vicinity have increased recently, and the land needs to be re-appraised.

Central West End resident Joyce Littlefield says opening up that parcel to as-yet-unspecified development is shortsighted: "I think that if this hurried-up-rush-lease thing is done, the people of St. Louis are going to have yet another reason to know that they cannot trust their city officials."

The proposal now goes to the Board of Aldermen.

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