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Art-Filled Skatepark Opens in Detroit

Paine’s Park in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Cities from Barcelona to Houston are starting to treat skateparks as community-builders rather than community-aggravators. Now, Detroit is the latest city to benefit from a new downtown skate park. A 4,000-square-foot privately funded park and art installation designed by skateboarder Tony Hawk and artist Ryan McGinness opened Tuesday.

“This is kind of a different project because it’s private property and it’s funded by a bunch of different corporations,” Hawk told Benzinga.com. “It’s right in the city. It’s a great start.”

The project, dubbed Wayfinding Skate Park, is backed by Bedrock Detroit and Quicken Loans, and was originally conceived by Detroit-based art gallery Library Street Collective, who soon teamed up with the Cranbrook Art Museum. It sits — temporarily — between Randolph Street, Bates Street, Cadillac Square and Monroe Avenue, on a site slated for construction, MLive reports. The “Monroe Block” project, which will include a 20-story office tower and a 16-story residential building, will break ground in January, at which time the skate park will be moved to another location.

Coincidentally, another skate park, this one in the Cass Corridor neighborhood on city owned-property, is also scheduled to be replaced by a mixed-use development project.

As Next City has covered, skate parks often arise as informal examples of tactical urbanism (starting before that was even a favorite phrase of planners) in so-called “accidental parks,” and under freeway overpasses and elevated train tracks. In some cases, those parks became popular and then received municipal funding and redesigns — forcing an exodus of the skaters, homeless people and musicians who originally made the spaces into parks.

But in some cases, skaters have grown up to become community advocates, and begun pushing to sanction their sport-of-choice into park design. As Cassie Owners wrote for Next City in 2014, cities “are growing their skatepark infrastructure piece by piece.”