Tag Archives: faith skate supply

Art + downtown = genius

Opening eyes and expanding the mind

Tomorrow (Sept. 9 at 5 PM) is the start of Artwalk, the annual downtown art event that showcases dozens of artists and brings thousands to the streets. In conjunction with this (free!) event, we are hosting “FAIRYtales”, a show of Larry Anderson’s work at our studio, 2332 Second Avenue North next to Faith Skate Supply. Beta Pictoris gallery has arranged this great show; please stop by to check it out!

[thanks to Beta Pictoris for the image of Anderson’s work]

Anticipation (on a positive note)

Nature comes into the city

On a cool, cloudy Monday, Katherine Billmeier of the Railroad Park Foundation gave me a tour of the soon-to-be-completed park (Katherine says July). As many times as I’ve seen the plans, and biked past the park to view progress from the street, entering the park itself was an entirely different experience. It felt bigger than I had thought, and more diverse. The details, whether salvaged cobbles and train tracks from the site transformed into paths and ledges, or the light standards and bridges—it all felt first class. It’s all too rare in this city to see a major public project done right. This feels like that sort of project.

The quality shows

Katherine explained the concessions service: it will be contracted out (they don’t know to whom yet); it will be “upscale” sandwiches and snacks, but at an affordable price point so students can comfortably eat here. There will also be beer and wine on sale–the very idea seems so New Orleans and so not Birmingham, it seems too good to be true. The concessions and other amenities will be housed in boxy pavillions designed to recall old-fashioned box cars, as seen in the below rendering:

Superior design

One item that may interest readers: a small area is being designed for skate boarding (you can read our earlier post on this subject here). I was told that not only this area, but any paved area of the park would be open to skaters–as long as they share the space responsibly. Peter Karvonen, our friend at Faith Skate Supply, is cautiously optimistic that the park’s embrace of skaters will endure. He also realizes that it will be up to the skaters to coexist peacefully with joggers, pick-nickers, walkers, bikers, and all the others we hope use this park. We really think that this mini-skate area could demonstrate to area leaders that a full-size skate park is vital to this metro area.

Preparing for skaters

Finally, this last shot I think starts to capture how this new public space can transform how we see the City: we are all familiar with the Daniel Building, and some of us with Cityville housing whose construction is finishing in the next months. Both are a couple blocks away from the park, but just seeing an office building and apartments glimpsed from across undulating hills and trees helps us imagine the new projects that could line the park. There is really no other place in Birmingham that has this sort of potential private-public synergy. This could be the big win we all really need right now.

Seeing the city in a whole new way

PS–Katherine is already looking ahead, beyond the park just connecting UAB to the northside; it will also connect with new bike trails and green space from Sloss to I-65, and from there on to the new Red Mountain Park and beyond. Now that’s thinking big, and then thinking even bigger. After the recent gut-punches of Chick-Fil-A and Walgreens, I hope this post let’s us all hang in there and realize we do have some things to be proud of here. Keep it coming!

Skate park!

Skating: essential to any urban environment

When we developed 2nd Row here on 2nd Avenue North, we were delighted to bring Faith Skate Supply and its owner Peter Karvonen into the neighborhood. Skating has become ubiquitous in urban America, and your city lacks edge if it lacks a decent skate scene. Unfortunately, unlike Nashville and Chattanooga, Birmingham does not have a central skate park that’s fun, safe, and available to all. (thanks to mississaugamuse for the pic of the boy safely skating in a purpose-built park).

Skating, according to a Memphis site devoted to a similar deficiency in that city, “is a positive physical outlet needed for our youth and it’s an activity that naturally forms friendships among participants coming from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.”  Peter is particularly interested in how younger kids, those with autism, and kids prone to obesity can benefit from the exercise provided by skating. To that end, he’s helped organize an art auction to help raise money for the Magic City skatepark effort  this Friday at Urban Standard at 6:30 PM (this interview from Transworld Business helps explain the intersection of autism and skating).

As Peter points out, it is often more difficult to build a skate park in a large city than a small one, due to the more complex land uses, zoning rules, and ownerships involved. He has been working with the City of Birmingham for the last number of years trying to identify a piece of City property appropriate for a park. The City would donate the land, and at this point the construction funding would come from elsewhere. Peter knows one thing–any park will have a special section set aside for younger kids and those with autism.

One really interesting example of how a smaller city saw the positive urban value of a skate park can be found in Greensboro, AL where Auburn University architecture students have designed a compelling and economical place for skaters:

Rendering of Greensboro skate park

Here the park nestles into the landscape: a sculptural element that’s visually appealing as well as functional. Thanks to the Auburn Rural Studio for the rendering.

One of the reasons why the smaller skate park (ideally it needs 30-40,000 square feet of area) closed in Homewood Central Park was due to complaints from neighboring residents in new, high-priced condos. It seems (surprise surprise) that the often loud rattling and thumping of skateboards do not mesh with condo quiet-time. While the Birmingham City Council, Mayor’s office, and various community leaders all support the idea in theory, a sort of NIMBY-esque excuse is found for just about any desirable location (i.e. “we love the idea for the city, but it just wouldn’t work with the sort of people/businesses/investment we are trying to bring to our proposed park/development.”)

A completely different, inclusive take on skateboarding: Peter sent me an article about architects designing skate-friendly buildings: this pic (courtesy quon) illustrates how the new Olso Opera House designed by the Norwegian firm Snohetta is essentially a series of ramping surfaces anchoring the structure into the land, dissolving it into the sea, and–in theory–providing plenty of fun for skateboarders.

Ramps and opera in Oslo

There are plenty of stereotypes out there about skateboarding. In reality, kids (and adults) are getting exercise, staying out of trouble, and making new friends in (ideally) a safe, purpose-built environment. I strongly support the construction of a super-cool skate park in a central location in the City. The sooner this happens, the happier Peter–and his legions of local skating followers–will be.