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Planning Commission to Take Up Forest Park to BJC Issue

The first thing I want let everyone know is the Planning Commission meeting will not be held in it’s usual location at 1015 Locust. This month, in anticipation of a large audience, it will be held in room 208 of City Hall.

Why the large audience?

Because the areas largest employer wants to use that fact to bully the city into giving up a good-sized chunk of park land.

I’ve heard all the arguments in favor of this deal:

  • People don’t associate this land with Forest Park.

  • Nobody really uses the park.
  • The City needs the revenue to maintain Forest Park.
  • BJC needs the ability to expand.
  • Ok, why don’t we address each of the points.

    True, most people have not associated this bit of land with Forest Park except those persons old enough to recall the old routing of Kingshighway. But, for most of us this has always been isolated. Except that, I’m not sure how you can consider a 9 acre park isolated. Nine acres is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, BJC is seeking another 3 acres South of Clayton Road for a total of 12 acres. To put that into perspective, that is about the same size as Hyde Park on the Northside. Or it is just under half the size of Lafayette Park. I think people would notice if we took away 12 acres from Lafayette Park.

    But Forest Park, everyone says, is so massive and 12 acres is nothing relative to that. Yes, relative to Forest Park this 12 acres is meaningless. But, when you walk through the area, even though built on top of a parking garage, you see green grass, beautiful trees, tennis courts (although not well maintained by BJC as their current lease requires), racquet ball courts and a nice playground. I’ve seen them all used on multiple visits.

    The access to this particular 12 acres is nice, a short walk or bike ride from adjacent neighborhoods. Yes, ducking under Kingshighway will get you into Forest Park but it doesn’t get you right to a playground, or a tennis court. For someone on foot taking their kids to the swing the distance becomes just too far. This park land is used due to its proximity to users and friendly size. If the park is not used to its full potential it is because BJC has failed to uphold its end of the 1973 deal by not maintaining the park and tennis courts as required. But don’t give me the line that nobody uses the park because it is not supported by facts.

    The city does need revenue. During the whole Forest Park makeover for the last decade I’m not sure what the plan was for on-going maintenance? Maybe this was the plan all along? Get everyone to fall in love with all the new landscaping, water features and infrastructure that was built so they’d have to go along with the BJC deal. Others have made good points such as having the land appraised to see what the true market value is or making BJC pay for all of Forest Park’s maintenance, not just half.

    It seems the city should be in a good position to negotiate. We’ve got land that BJC wants. Are they going to move if we don’t give in to their ransom demand? Doubtful. I think they need to be forced to tell us their plans for the future. What do they want to build here? I’d like to see a diagram of land use for BJC property to see how much is used for actual patients. I bet that would be quite small relative to the amount of land used to store cars in parking garages. Ever notice how all their garages, with several under construction now, are all above grade? An urban hospital complex in Chicago, Boston or even somewhere like Milwaukee could never afford to be so wasteful with land.

    Most likely the city will give in and a series of pre-planned concessions will suddenly appear to make it look as though the city played hard ball. A building or buildings will rise faster than we all expected and in 20-30 years they will be back at the table asking for more. They will ask to close Clayton Road, cutting off easy access to Forest Park. Then they will ask to line the other side of Kingshighway with buildings, arguing nobody really uses the land adjacent to the busy road.

    The Planning Commission meeting is Wednesday May 3, 2006 in a special location — room 208 of City Hall.

    UPDATE 5/2/06 @ 2:45pm – The Planning Commission meeting starts at 5:30pm on 5/3/06. Also, check out CWE Greenspace for a neighborhood perspective.

    – Steve


    Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

    1. Brian says:

      IMO, the strongest argument for this deal is that BJC is now willing to pay more than 10 times what they already annually pay for only a third more in land than what they already lease.

      Since 1973, BJC has already leased 9 acres of this debated section of parkland, and could continue to do so, whether or not this new amendment goes through. Now, BJC wishes to lease 12 acres total, but at a substantially higher price, which will go towards the maintenance of the 1,300-acre park west of Kingshighway.

      IOW, BJC wishes to continue leasing the same space they already occupy plus three acres, for a total impact area of less than one-percent of the park’s total acreage. And of course, BJC’s plans are limited to east of Kingshighway, or outside the Forest Park boundaries that most of the public recognize.

    2. Tyson says:

      I’d like to see BJC be able to expand onto this land, but I’d also like to see the city get more money for it. BJC has the money, and I don’t blame them for trying to get the best deal possible, but I think they need to pay at least half of the $4.5 million per year needed to maintain the park. This would be $2.25 million a year, inflation adjusted, with FP Forever kicking in the other half as they have said they would do.

    3. Nate says:

      Get more money for the non-contiguous portions of forest park. Put towers in the turtle park for all I care. Build an endowment so that you never have to go into the main park.

      Let BJC close clayton road, but make part of it a walkable, bike-rideable greenway into the park.

    4. BJC baffles me — they have what their supporters arrogantly have claimed as “their own” MetroLink station, yet they continue to build HUGE parking garages. Maybe they should reimburse employees’ transit passes if they aren’t already doing so.

      Each parking garage site is one less available site for real urban development.

    5. tom says:

      BJC subisidizes transit passes by $20 per month. It started in January 2005 and resulted in huge jumps in employee usage of transit.

    6. Brian says:

      BJC does contribute $20 towards employees’ transit passes. The latest parking garage under construction at Taylor will have on its ground floor the future CWE Transit Center. Similar to the Clayton Transit Center, this new one in the CWE will provide a sheltered area to transfer to buses, with a new ramp connecting east of the CWE MetroLink station platform.

      Citizens for Modern Transit recently honored our region’s largest employer as one of their Best Places to Work. From the CMT website (www.cmt-stl.org):

      Barnes Jewish Hospital (2005)

      Barnes Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals initiated a transit subsidy program in Jan. of 2005 which resulted in more than a 900% increase in the number of passes sold onsite. The program includes:

      * The Guaranteed Ride Home Program
      * A $20 transit subsidy program
      Pre-payroll tax deductions for the remaining $30 cost of the pass
      * A Shuttle system from the transit stations surrounding the worksite that serves the entire campus – it is estimated that 65% of the 12,000 employees utilize this system
      Rideshare matching
      Preferred parking for carpoolers
      * Secure bicycle parking and showers for bicyclists
      * Flextime
      * Onsite amenities.

    7. Lisa says:

      for the neighborhood’s take on this, see cwegreenspace.blogspot.com

    8. Paul says:

      I would throw on the table a compromise plan:

      BJC would continue to lease the 9 acres with underground garage, tennis courts, playground and green space above unchanged. The lease could never be altered to allow building above ground in this area. (From most comments I have seen, this is the area that people want to preserve and maintain access to as currently)

      BJC would be allowed to lease the 3 acres south of Clayton Avenue and eventually build buildings there. Clayton Avenue would stay open in perpetuity. BJC could build a bridge over Clayton Avenue to the existing underground garage as currently exists to the main existing hospital building.

      In addition, BJC would lease the air rights over Highway 40 and the new more compact interchange on the east side of Kingshighway. This is common in New York and other cities. They could build buildings over 40 and ramps, but not over Kingshighway. As part of building over the highway, BJC would be required to include in their plan two public pedestrian routes over the interchange, one along the curve of Kingshighway and one connecting to the southwest corner of S. Euclid and Clayton Avenue.

      The area of the interchange east of Kingshighway that is and will continue to be a useless mess would be put to good use, and is at lest as large as the 9 acres of park space that would remain public.

    9. appraiser says:

      Last nite, President Shrewsbury called for an independent appraisal on the property, done by an out of town appraiser.

      However, isn’t BJC offering $2,000,000 per year in ground rent for the property?

      At today’s rates of return hovering around 5%, a $2,000,000 rental payment translates to a principal value of about $40,000,000.

      That works out to $4,444,444 per acre or $102 dollars per square foot.

      Sounds like one heck of a deal for the city to me, and something that no appraiser would likely question.

      The city should jump at it before BJC lowers their price.

    10. Sue says:

      What time is the Plan Commission meeting? That’s critical information for anyone who wants to attend.

      [REPLY – Good point! The meeting starts at 5:30pm. – SLP]


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