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Appraisal of land bought by History Museum shows discrepancy in price, value

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 12, 2013 - A new appraisal of the controversial property at 5863 Delmar Blvd. purchased by the Missouri History Museum for a community center but never developed says the tract was worth about $260,000 when the museum paid $875,000 for it in 2006.

The appraisal was ordered by the board of the Zoo-Museum District after questions about the purchase — both the price and the fact that the previous owner was former St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. were raised by an audit performed for the ZMD and the Post-Dispatch. Bosley at one time served on the museum’s board of trustees.

Issues surrounding the land deal and subsequent discussion over the compensation of the museum's then-president Robert Archibald led to Archibald’s resignation in 2012 and to a new arrangement between the museum’s board, which is private, and the commissioners of the museum subdistrict of the ZMD. The museum receives about $10 million of its $14 million annual budget in tax money from the ZMD.

John Roberts, who became head of the museum’s board of trustees last year and has been acting as de facto head of the museum since Archibald’s departure, said in a statement that in hindsight, more oversight should have been exercised by the board in the purchase.

"While we have yet to review the underlying methodologies employed by the appraiser," his statement said, "we are of course troubled by the information in the executive summary which suggests a significant disparity between the purchase price and their estimation of the market value of the property.

"It must be clearly understood, that while in retrospect the original Missouri History Museum purchase of the property should have followed a more thorough process, we cannot rewrite history."

Roberts noted that as part of the new relationship between the museum trustees and the subdistrict commissioners, no purchase or lease of property may occur without a professional appraisal, plus the approval of both groups.

The Post-Dispatch has more on the story here.