River City Skatepark
A Story of Cycles
In 2005, following construction of Cesar Chavez Park, Signal Founder Mark Johnson was tapped by Sea Mar Community Centers and ECOSS (The Environmental Coalition of South Seattle) to support a vision for a derelict site on S. Cloverdale St. at the heart of the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Previous work at the adjacent Cesar Chavez Park—vision, design, and fundraising support—had revealed that South Park had the highest concentration of youth in the City of Seattle, and that it was served by the fewest parks. Inspired to help a group of teens, Mark joined Kim Schwarzkopf, a local community advocate and filmmaker, a group of engaged youth, and their friends at Grindline to imagine one of the first DIY skateparks in Seattle.
While our role as architects is typically to develop the design and vision for a project, River City gave Mark a chance to walk in other’s shoes–to raise money from scratch, write grants, build partnerships with land owners, community, and material suppliers, and to stand behind the vision of a leading skatepark designer. Mark Hubbard, who founded Grindline, envisioned a skatepark inspired by indigenous culture that would serve all ages and abilities at the heart of the Duwamish Valley.
Fifteen years from the start, and ten years since opening day, Signal still supports the park, providing guidance to new leadership as we begin a capital campaign to complete the final phases of park construction. A large sector of Signal’s design work is reliant on capital funding, board support, and community engagement, and the firsthand experience of this park reminds us of how we can best serve the nonprofit leaders and teams who bring humanities and community visions to life.