Several bills will be introduced in the Board of Aldermen this week to extend the lease of land east of Kingshighway that is currently utilized by BJC as a parking garage. The bills will have my support.
The proposed deal among the City, BJC, and Forest Park Forever is much, much better than originally proposed, thanks to the work of the Forest Park Advisory Board,the Comptroller’s Office, a special committee of four aldermen, and FPF.
Here is how the proposal is better:The size of the land covered by the lease has been reduced to 9.4 acres. In addition, BJC has agreed to set aside no less than 15 percent of the land for green space, effectively reducing the developable space by another 1.4 acres.Even though the amount of acreage is smaller, BJC has agreed to raise its lease payments to $2 million per year. All of that money will be put into a trust. It can only be invested to maintain Forest Park.One-and-a-half acres of land south of Clayton Road will be protected. A new park will be created with playground equipment and tennis courts. The new park will be more convenient for families in Forest Park Southeast. BJC will light the park, and provide security and maintenance. Some of the tennis courts at Triple A will be improved and made available to the general public at no cost. The handball courts behind the visitor’s center will also be expanded and improved. In all, BJC has agreed to set aside $1 million to pay for the changes and improvements. Forest Park Forever has agreed to match at least $1.8 million per year. Combined with the $2 million from the BJC lease, that means at least $3.8 million per year in dedicated revenue will be available to maintain Forest Park. In addition, $1.6 million in General Revenue will be freed up. That money will be set aside to help maintain the City’s other 104 parks. In the first year, that money will be invested within a mile-and-a-half of the Hudlin location to create new green space or recreational opportunities.
This proposal is good for Forest Park. But, it is also good for the City’s economy. BJC employs 15,000 people in the City of St. Louis, making it our largest employer. This lease ensures that it can continue to grow and fulfill its mission in our City.
This deal already has the support of the Forest Park Advisory Board and Forest Park Forever. I hope it gets the support of the Board of Aldermen.