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Huge Skateboard Park Coming to Philadelphia
(Posted 2/28/2004)

(By Josh Rabinowitz for

(PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA) According to the The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC), Philadelphia is one step closer to having a skateboard park.

In 2001, the city administration moved to enforce an existing but unenforced ban on skateboarding in several popular Philadelphia public locations. The legislation severely limited riders, who were already restricted from areas like John F. Kennedy Plaza -- known to skateboarders worldwide as the famous LOVE Park.

In response to the huge need for quality skateboard facilities in the Philadelphia area, Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund (FPSF), an organization that advocates for skateboarders' rights, proposed the idea of a centralized riding location to city officials.

"We were trying to create some alternate facilities in a location that would really take the place of all these lost skate spots," FPSF President Joshua Nims said. "We said, 'We're gonna offer to raise money and do the legwork on our own.' And eventually, if it works, [the city] won't be able to help but go along with it."

The skatepark is planned to be a colossal 2.5 acres (109,000 square feet, or about 10,000 square meters) and located in Fairmount Park, along the eastern side of the Schuylkill River, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"I would be really stoked if they actually built that. It's definitely worth the trip," college sophomore and skateboarder Ron Wallach was reported as saying. "If they build it, skateboarders will come."

Though apparently noncommittal initially, the city was encouraged by successful skateboarding events of 2001 and 2002, namely the ESPN X-Games, which were held in Philadelphia.

In August 2003, the city approved the release of a triangular piece of Fairmount Park land for the project. According to Nims, the city also provided $100,000 in funding to contribute to the design development of the project.

FPSF "has had the types of successes that would support a much larger project hand in hand with the city," Nims said. Along with their experience, "the [City Council and Planning Commission] have been instrumental in helping us get thus far."

AB Architects, a consulting group with experience in skatepark construction, will also contribute to the project design planning.

SkateNerd, a multi-media design firm based in Philadelphia, will reportedly also coordinate with Qualified Women in Construction in the community outreach process.

Reportedly, the team includes Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund, Synterra Ltd., SkateNerd Inc., Purkiss Rose RSI, Damiano & Long Consulting Engineers, Orth Rogers & Associates, Inc., Qualified Women in Construction, and AB Architects (AB ARCH).

Planners want to get city residents, city agencies, stakeholders and members of the skateboarding community together to contribute to the design of a “unique site that is not only a skatepark but also an urban space that is integrated in the landscape around it.”

In trying to create a site that promises to be a regional and national destination for Philadelphia, they intend to help develop a dialog about the skatepark, and increase awareness and communication between the skateboarding community and community at large. The intent is also to encourage ideas and comments to incorporate them into the final design, all while improving safety and access to the waterfront.

“We are thrilled to have been chosen for this once in a lifetime opportunity for Philadelphia,” said Anthony Bracali, Principal of AB ARCH, who is heading the team. “The prominence of this site requires an overall design approach that appeals to and integrates its surrounding uses. Our vision is to design a public space that complements the surrounding neighborhoods, and will be a place that will serve the needs of many individuals in addition to skateboarders.”

"The issue of where skateboarders can be and legitimately skate is very important," said David Schaaf, a liaison for the PCPC. "We need to provide facilities for people that are skateboarding -- which is somewhat of a new phenomenon for all U.S. cities."

“This project is an extraordinary exercise in urban plaza and landscape design that requires a level of expertise in many fields,” said Maxine Griffith, Secretary for Strategic Planning & Executive Director at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

“We were very impressed with AB ARCH’s presentation." Griffith continued, "They have assembled an outstanding team of experts who will provide the knowledge, cooperation and commitment necessary to undertake such an endeavor.”

A Land Use Survey is nearly complete for the proposed site, and AB ARCH reportedly has six months to complete a design for the proposed park.

The architects of record are reported to be Synterra Ltd., a landscape architecture firm with offices in Philadelphia, who are responsible for producing the schematic design, development and construction documents headed by their “expert in skatepark and landscape design”, Purkis Rose.

AB ARCH is a Philadelphia-based architectural firm with experience working on “incentive and large-scale site design projects” and who has reportedly worked with the local skateboarding community for almost two years.

Locally based engineering firms Orth Rogers & Associates, Inc. and Damiano & Long Consulting Engineers are on deck to advise on traffic, pedestrian and parking issues that affect the site and civil infrastructure design, respectively.

For more information, contact: Karen Chin at the PCPC at 215-683-4683

This article is based on information provided by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and the article “City planning skatepark for Schuylkill River site with advocacy group” by Sameer Khetan and published in the February 27th edition of the Daily Pennsylvanian.

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