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The Future of Grant’s Farm is Uncertain

December 2, 2015 Featured, Parks, St. Louis County, STL Region, Taxes, Zoning 6 Comments

The future of Grant’s Farm is coming between siblings — children of the late August Anheuser “Gussie” Busch, Jr. (1899-1989). I find it unsettling to see wealthy siblings, in their 50s & 60s, disagreeing m public.

Before I go any further, I have a confession: I’ve never been inside the gates of Grant’s Farm or the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site located across…Grant Rd. I’ve certainly driven past on Gravois many times, even exploring the perimeter like Pardee Rd. On Sunday we drove around the site completely. Though the site contains many buildings, it’s still very much unspoiled nature.

The Gravois Rd entry gates to Grant's Farm
The Gravois Rd entry gates to Grant’s Farm

One comment on the Sunday Poll post was:

FYI your 3rd choice isn’t an option. Do a little research on what municipality Grant’s Farm lies in and what it’s zoning laws and ordinances are. Also look up what part lies in a flood plain. Not going to have to worry about any commercial or residential development here!

While poll answers are presented in random order, this was a reference to the poll answer: “Sell to a developer for houses &/or retail”  Not only is it possible, this is the concern of the four Busch siblings that would like to sell the animal preserve to the St. Louis Zoo.

Four Anheuser-Busch heirs worry that their brother, Billy Busch, will turn Grant’s Farm into a subdivision.

No one man can finance and maintain the sprawling South St. Louis County animal park, said Trudy Busch Valentine and Andy Busch. It’s just too expensive.

They have seen housing plat maps already drafted for the Grant’s Farm land, they both said, and know it’s an option for any owner if times get tough.

Billy Busch responded, saying he wouldn’t sell off land. St. Louis County classifies the land as single family, Grantwood Village has it zoned “Animal Preserve.” The Lindbergh School District would likely object to a loss of tax revenue if it went to the Zoo.

County records show the site as 214 acres, though news reports say 198 acres
County records show the site as 214 acres, though news reports say 198 acres
Parking & farm land on the East side of Grant Rd is a different ownership from the trust.
Parking & farm land on the East side of Grant Rd is a different ownership from the trust.
Pedestrian entrance from Grant Rd parking lot
Pedestrian entrance from Grant Rd parking lot
The National site is less than 9 acres
The National site is less than 9 acres

Here are the results of the Sunday Poll:

Q: Six Busch siblings can’t agree on Grant’s Farm, what would you like to see happen?

  1. William “Billy” Busch buys it, builds Kräftig Brewery on part, allows Zoo to use part. 31 [58.49%]
  2. St. Louis Zoo buys it, the region fund a new sales tax to cover annual operating expenses. 12 [22.64%]
  3. Stay as is, owned by the family trust & operated at an annual loss by AB InBev 9 [16.98%]
  4. Other — county buys, becomes affordable housing: 1 [1.89%]
  5. Sell to a developer for houses &/or retail 0 [0%]

A century ago such a family would’ve donated the land to the Zoo, along with an endowment to help cover upkeep. Are taxpayers willing to pay to keep this land as an animal preserve? Doubtful. The future seems uncertain.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I’d guess that the 214 acres versus 198 acres is the difference between including the family compound (2-3 large homes), or not.

    This discussion is a microcosm of urban land use, in general, and reflects the challenges of passing the family farm/estate down to future generations. Between finding the money to maintain the old uses, differing priorities among multiple siblings and changes in the world around any property, it’s very difficult to not change things, for decades.

    Personally, I’d “like” to see it stay open space, whether it stays an animal attraction/preserve, becomes a passive-use public park, becomes a cemetery or becomes a golf course, but I wouldn’t lose too much sleep, either, if it became another subdivision. Infill dvelopment, here, at any price point, means a) that those units would not be being built and sold on the edge of suburbia, and b) would signal to people that (re)investing in inner-ring suburbs still makes sense.

    The one thing that does NOT make sense is for the zoo to get involved. The zoo seems to be pursuing a bigger is better business model, based solely on receiving MORE tax dollars (through another tax increase!). Until the Zoo starts to charge admission, especially to patrons who don’t pay local taxes, every day, they have more than enough on their plate with their current projects on BOTH sides of I-64, without getting involved, here. Like you, I have not been inside, either, in the 10+ years that I’ve lived here, and there are far more important things to devote local taxes to and on!

  2. Local says:

    So since you’ve bought into the fear mongering and admitted that you’ve never even stepped foot inside that place, have you spoken to any local residents and heard their feelings and what they will be doing to ensure their village trustees do not rezone the land?

    • The only thing I’ve bought into Bob is the heirs wish to cash out. It’s beautiful, I’d love to see it remain an animal preserve.

      I also know the entire region is being asked to help pay for that. This is bigger than a municipality of fewer than 900 people.

      • Bob says:

        You must being reading different news articles than I have. The ones I have read talked about Billy and Adolphus Busch buying out the other 4 trustees and keeping it the same with Kraftig products. Those two gentleman aren’t asking for a dime of taxpayer money. I’d love to see you post those plans for a subdivision Trudy Valentine claims she saw when you get a chance.

  3. KevinB says:

    Let the brothers buy it. Sounds like they’re just as interested as their siblings in preserving this memorial to the family’s empire, and probably more so, as they’re actively trying to retain/continue that heritage with Kraftig. It’s refreshing to see, really — how many of us would put our millions (billions?) in buy-out money back into the business that our forefathers built?!

    Billy Busch can buy Grant’s Farm and exclusively offer his Kraftig products there. Though instead of building a brewery there, as you supposed, I’d hope he’d open Kraftig brewery somewhere on N. Broadway, as a bookend to the S. Broadway complex his family created 150+ years ago.

    • John R says:

      I don’t really have strong feelings on what’s best, but it appears a major concern of the other siblings is whether Billy’s plan is solid…. GF reportedly has been losing a lot of money over the years so I can see how the siblings would be concerned about Billy being able to make a go of it while retaining the attraction’s essential character.


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