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08.13.2013
Skate or Die!
An addition to Chicago's Grant Park includes a skate park.
Courtesy Chicago Park District

Whether they delight in ollies and kick flips or not, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the landlords near Daley Plaza have reason to cheer a new skate park proposed for the southwestern edge of Grant Park. For years skaters have been a menace to the streetscape, shredding downtown steps, rails, and squares with their incessant slides and grinds. In 2006, as part of an attempt to limit the damage, the Chicago Park District set up a temporary skating area while the city developed a permanent park geared toward the teenage pastime. In July, the Grant Park Conservancy revealed preliminary designs of the new park, designed by local landscape architecture firm Altamanu and a Park District team headed by Michael Lange.

 

Lange said the nearby student community—some 60,000 students at Columbia College, Roosevelt University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Harold Washington College, and elsewhere—is in need not just of a legal place to skateboard, but extra outdoor event space. “The area will be a regional draw,” he said. In addition to flexible multiuse spaces for performances and exhibitions, it will be capable of hosting skate related events and competitions.

The City of Chicago will tack on 1.86 acres of public land to the southwest corner of Grant Park, near Roosevelt Road and the Illinois Central railroad tracks. The Near South TIF district will provide $1 million in tax increment financing for the project. Grant Park Conservancy is looking for private funding for the rest.

 

For the temporary space, Dan Peterman, an associate professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, helped mockup wheel-friendly elements, the city said, to mimic the sculptures at the Museum of Contemporary Art that once attracted illegal skating. At the permanent park, skaters will have access to ledges, rails, and boxes while transition planters and mounds handle stormwater.

“In terms of the design,” Lange said, “the traditional monotony of a large area of grey concrete (typical of traditional wheel friendly design) is broken up with unique forms, shapes, colors, and landscaping that are integrated into the new design.”

The city has four other skate parks. Logan Square Skate Park, nestled under the Kennedy Expressway at Western Avenue; a facility at Piotrowski Park in Little Village; and two along the lakefront: Uptown’s Wilson Skate Park and the Burnham Skate Park in Bronzeville.

Construction could begin early next year.

Chris Bentley