I had originally planned on publishing this post on April Fools Day, but in light of the prescient news revealed a few hours ago, I am publishing this post today. I swear I had the idea for this post well before today’s announcement (last August, actually).
The Saint Louis Zoo announced, today, plans to begin its first major expansion in its 100 year history. Enabling the Zoo’s plans is a contract to purchase the Forest Park Hospital site.
According to Zoo officials, “as the Zoo is effectively landlocked inside Forest Park, the Forest Park Hospital site represents one of the only contiguous sites the Zoo can use to expand.”
Preliminary plans for the Forest Park Hospital property call for demolishing the hospital building and replacing them with additional parking for Zoo patrons. “By building additional parking south of the highway,” Zoo officials said, “we hope to reduce some of the congestion that plagues the Hampton interchange.”
As the Forest Park Hospital site is separated from the Zoo by Highway 64/40, Zoo officials envision building a 1/2 mile, 3 station monorail to ferry Zoo patrons between the Forest Park Hospital site and the north and south Zoo entrances.
In addition to more parking for visitors, Zoo officials plan on building a five story office building at the corner of Hampton and Oakland. The building will have retail on the first floor and house Zoo-Museum District offices in the remaining space. Zoo officials say that they are quickly running out of office space and while the new building is too big for their needs, they will share the space with the Art Museum and Science Center.
The acquisition of the Forest Park Hospital site will allow the Saint Louis Zoo to expand into the south zoo parking lot closest to the highway. “We considered adding attractions on the other side of the highway, but we believe it would be best to have all the attractions as close together as possible.”
In the near future, Zoo officials envision expanding the monorail a quarter-mile north to the Art Museum and, eventually, a mile east to the Science Center, thus connecting the top 3 attractions in Forest Park. Farther into the future, the monorail may be expanded to the BJC medical campus where a connection to the Central West End MetroLink station would provide a significantly easier and quicker year-round ride to Forest Park attractions than what the existing Forest Park Trolley provides.
Zoo officials say they are coordinating their monorail plans with BJC and CORTEX. The St. Louis Development Corporation, in conjunction with BJC and CORTEX, is currently studying ideas for a monorail that would run between Euclid and Boyle and perhaps as far as Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.