The City of Cleveland built a downtown skate park back in 2004 in hopes of luring the Gravity Games to the lakefront. At the time, it seemed something of a disingenuous gesture: For years, the city booted skateboarders from its streets, often issuing tickets to those it managed to run down.
So it seemed that order was restored last week with the unceremonious closing of the six-year-old facility at North Coast Harbor. City officials deemed it too dangerous to skate on and too decrepit for further repairs.
But rather than scuttle skaters out of town, the plan is to herd them under a bridge: The city is pumping $20,000 into the design of a $550,000 poured concrete skate park at Hart Crane Park, according to mayoral Chief of Staff Ken Silliman.
It’s an ideal setting for a countercultural enclave: on the East Bank of the Industrial Flats, next to the Columbus Road lift bridge and across from one of the most richly graffitied walls in town. Plus, there’s nobody around to be annoyed.
The newly available space at North Coast Harbor, meanwhile, will be redeveloped as an eatery of some sort. The catch: Whoever wants to buy into the prime spot must also pony up to fund the new skate park.
The city plans to vet its skate-park designs with genuine skateboarders, the better to ensure that the new facility does not suck.
“Build it right, and all you have to do is keep it swept,” says Vince Frantz of the Public Square Group, a nonprofit skate park consulting group.
If only the Euclid Corridor had hired these guys. — Michael Gill