Aldermen consider Forest Park-BJC deal
By Maria Hickey, KWMU
St. Louis – A proposal to lease a portion of Forest Park to Barnes-Jewish Hospital has an uncertain future in the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
The ordinance introduced Friday would require the hospital to pay $2 million a year for the nine acres east of Kingshighway.
Because the proposal deals with park land, Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury says it will need more than a simple majority to pass.
That means 20 out of 29 votes, and Shrewsbury said he'll vote "no."
"Once this is gone it's gone forever," Shrewsbury said. "Technically, legally it's a lease; for all practical purposes it's a sale. It's a loss of park property that we will never get back."
Shrewsbury is also one of the three-member Board of Estimate that must sign off on the deal.
Mayor Francis Slay, also a member, supports the lease.
Comptroller Darlene Green sits on the estimate board as well. She released a statement Friday saying she plans to hold meetings next week to help reach a compromise. She opposed an earlier plan.
And the public will also weigh in this April, when a ballot question will ask whether voter approval should be required for any sale or lease of park land.
One of the sponsors of an ordinance to lease parkland to Barnes-Jewish Hospital warns the hospital could move some of its facilities if the deal fails.
Alderman Joe Roddy's ward includes the nine acres east of Kingshighway that BJC wants to lease.
Roddy says BJC plans to tear down Queeny Tower because it's not earthquake safe. He said the hospital wants to build on the nine acres, but if not there, they might go further away.
"If they can't build it over there they're probably going to dramatically scale back their presence in the city," Roddy said. "They're a statewide hospital system. They've just acquired land at Highway 40 and Mason Road."