St. Louis, Forest Park Forever close to sale of $30 million in bonds for park work

2012-10-19T12:29:00Z 2013-10-17T09:24:07Z St. Louis, Forest Park Forever close to sale of $30 million in bonds for park workBy Tim O'Neil toneil@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8132 stltoday.com
October 19, 2012 12:29 pm  • 

ST. LOUIS • The city and Forest Park Forever are ready to close the deal on a $30 million bond issue for more big improvements in Forest Park.

Gary Bess, city parks director, said Friday that Forest Park Forever will buy the bonds to finance capital projects such as rebuilding roads near the St. Louis Zoo, renovating the Central Fields and improving the landscape around the Jewel Box. The city and the foundation already have combined for a $100 million reconstruction of the once-crumbling park that began more than a decade ago.

The new projects will begin next year, he said.

The city Board of Aldermen adopted the bond-issue plan in December. Supporters promised it would jump-start fundraising for a $100 million endowment to provide permanent financing for park maintenance.

Forest Park Forever was created 25 years ago as the city's partner in restoring the park, which was established in 1876. Lesley Hoffarth, executive director of the private foundation, said it has raised $44 million of the $130 million total for bonds and endowment.

Hoffarth said the bond issue provides ready money for the next  improvements and a secure way to pay for them.

Bess said the city will repay the bonds with existing revenue from the park sales tax and Forest Park concession income. He said the bond transaction will take place in about a month.

“It’s something of a novel idea because Forest Park Forever is actually loaning money to the city that it has raised through private donations,” Bess said.

He said the endowment is intended to provide about $4 million annually for maintaining Forest Park.

The ordinance adopted in December also included $34 million in bonds for improvements to the city’s 106 other parks. Bess said City Hall wanted to complete the Forest Park bonds first, then will move to sell the additional bonds.

Tim O'Neil is a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Contact him at 314-340-8132 or toneil@post-dispatch.com

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