Moore’s donation to Lindbergh hailed as ‘a win-win’

Sunset Hills mayor pleased school district is leasing site

By Mike Anthony

A Sunset Hills man’s decision to make a donation valued at $2 million to Lindbergh Schools is “a win-win” for the district and the community, according to Superintendent Jim Simpson.

Alwal “Al” Moore presented the district with the 10-acre former Paraclete Fathers property at 13270 Maple Drive in the Tapawingo subdivision in the form of a 50-year lease that was signed last week by Board of Education President Kathleen Kienstra.

Lindbergh Schools is leasing the property at a cost of $1 per year.

Moore had sought to operate a private library on the historic property, but the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen voted unanimously in March to reject a conditional-use permit, or CUP, for a library on the site.

Moore’s proposal for the library met opposition at several public hearings from his neighbors in the three Tapawingo subdivisions, near the Tapawingo National Golf Club.

“… We are doing all that we can to assure the Tapawingo residents that we are the best of neighbors,” Simpson told the Call. “In our way of looking at it, the property couldn’t have been given to a more conscientious steward.”

A letter from Simpson announcing the arrangement was mailed last week to Tapawingo residents.

The site will be called the Al Moore Leadership Center, in recognition of the generous donation by Moore and his wife, Betty, according to the superintendent.

The center primarily will be used for teacher training and “other kinds of training that a district does. It’s not like we have all the answers of what’s going to be there. ‘Tell us what’s going to be there in five years?’ I don’t know,” Simpson said.

“I know this, and I think this is important, it will never be an elementary school … We have Dressel (School) and it’s 10 acres. It will be an elementary school. But this is not that,” he said. “The lease has us maintaining these buildings for the next 50 years. We’re not tearing down things. We’re not bulldozing things. The property basically is going to be just like it is.”

In the future, the site could house offices for some of the district’s ancillary programs and be used for some document storage, Simpson said.

Moore has lived in Sunset Hills since before the city was incorporated and purchased the site in 2010 for $2 million with the goal of preserving the historic buildings and land. He bought the site from the Paraclete Fathers, to which Falstaff Brewing Co. owner Joseph “Papa Joe” Griesedieck had donated the buildings and land for use as a religious retreat.

In an attempt to preserve the site’s historic buildings and green space, Moore offered the site to the city as a park for $1 million, but the city did not have the funds.

Simpson said the district’s lease with Moore will allow the historic structures on the site to be maintained and preserved.

“… Sunset Hills has a very interesting and important history, but a lot of it has been lost. It has been bulldozed. It has been torn down. A lot of that history has to do with the brewery tycoons that came out to this edge of the Meramec and made this their country home … If Mr. Moore had not purchased this, it would have been bulldozed down. It would be a subdivision, more houses, and so the Falstaff legacy of Papa Joe is now a part of Sunset Hills. As a school district, we intend to make these historic structures available for viewing …

“So when people ask, “What is there historical to see in Sunset Hills?’ There’s something to see and the school district will be open to that, even working with the Sunset Hills Historical Society to give tours.”

Lindbergh officials also intend to seek to have some of the site’s buildings, including a historic stone tower and a stone carriage house, included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The site contains tennis courts and Moore has agreed to renovate the tennis courts so they are playable, Simpson said.

“In partnership with the school district, we’re going to make those courts available for play to the residents of Tapawingo as a good-neighbor gesture. So that will be an asset. We want this property to be an asset to Tapawingo …,” he said.

Sunset Hills Mayor Bill Nolan told the Call he is pleased with the arrangement.

“… It’s a great use for that property,” he said. “To quote Al Moore, ‘It’s a win-win-win.’ Al’s thrilled that the property will be preserved for 50 years. The city can know that that property will be preserved and the historic part of it will be there. And, obviously, Lindbergh can make great use of the property … As the mayor and as a citizen of Sunset Hills, I couldn’t be happier.”