Tag Archives: skate park

Keep the dream alive

Displaced by development

It always seemed a bit too good to be true. Birmingham, which embarassingly for a city its size has no proper central skate park, suddenly got a temporary version right across from Railroad Park in the 1500 block of First Avenue South when Railroad Park opened downtown (above). An almost-forgotten warehouse district was instantly brimming with green and people, and the skate park created a great synergy with its larger neighbor across the street. The balletic activity of the skate park was close enough to be visually compelling, but at just the right distance to not disturb people pic-nicking across the street in the grass. However, the writing was on the wall when the Birmingham Barons baseball team announced its intention to build a new downtown park in the area; the skate park has now been dismantled, awaiting imminent construction of a large baseball park at that location.

A path to success

Enter the A.Skate Foundation, a local non-profit that helps kids with autism through skateboarding. This nationally-recognized group, which holds clinics all over the country, just won a $50,000 grant for design of a new skate park in Birmingham, just a couple months after winning another equal grant for their clinics. This is probably the best opportunity to get an urban skate park built that we’ve had in a while.

Sculptural landscape, urban activity, kids–what’s not to like

Prototypes for the park are illustrated above (real design will start once a location has been selected; the designer is ASD). This is a no-brainer for the City–an opportunity to create a remarkable outdoor space, fulfill a true recreational need, and help kids with autism all at once. Talk about positive publicity. Birmingham should be jumping to identify property in the City Center or immediately adjacent neighborhoods. However, we hear that other metro cities are jumping quicker to assist the potential project. We’d love this park to be somewhere in the metro, period; we think a downtown location is ideal not only for the centrality to all populations, but for creating the best visibility for this very urban sport. We strongly encourage Birmingham to consider this worthy project.

Birmingham, make it happen

For anyone interested in donating to A. Skate’s mission, or who has ideas about possible locations for their new skate park, please contact them here. A skate park is part of any successful city’s urban fabric. Birmingham should be no exception.

[thanks to A.Skate and ASD for the renderings and photos of skate kids]

Delivering the message (2)

Banker, meet skater

In a happy note before kicking off the weekend, I opened up the Regions Social Responsibility Report 2010–just off the presses–and flipped it open to the above photo of a happy Regions Bank executive observing the balletic feats of a skater. Kudos to Regions for their help funding Railroad Park, and for deciding to frame this particular shot–a metaphor for different segments of our community coming together for the common good.

You can read the entry about Birmingham in the report here, and download the entire report here.

Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see a Regions Skate Park in our future? Bankers and skaters across the metro, have a great weekend.

[Thanks to Regions Bank for the pic]

Skate park! (2)

It's a start

While it’s far from the full-blown skate park this city needs, the skate plaza at the newly opened Railroad Park at least demonstrates that skateboarding can be successfully integrated into a multi-use public area. Today everyone from small kids to elderly ladies were enjoying the balletic acts of skaters in the plaza.

Hopefully there will be more exciting skate news to post about soon. In the meantime, check out the skate plaza next time you’re at the park!

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.