Covering a portion of professional skateboarder Spencer Hamilton’s ribs is something the City of Vancouver has been working on getting rid of for the past few years: the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. A hot topic in the news for the past few months, city council recently approved a $200m plan to remove these structures mostly to make way for housing and expanded public park space. I’ve been following the issue since when I 2012 interviewed then chief city planner Brent Toderian and brought you his “take em down!” view, as well as city councillor Geoff Meggs’ similar opinion. The general consensus among planners is that these things should be removed as they were originally a part of a freeway system that was supposed to go through Strathcona but was struck down due to the concerns of the neighbourhood. The local had has looked at the issue fairly exhaustively but one part of it that hasn’t been getting much press is the fact that there’s a skate park under the Dunsmuir viaduct, one that’s vitally important to the skateboarding community. That’s why Spencer has this tattoo, of course. He’s trying to keep the spirit of the park (known as The Plaza) alive beyond its demolition that’s likely happening in 2017.
Spencer moved here 10 years ago from Ottawa, and in his words the move was “largely due to the construction of The Plaza. Looking back, it was a totally new concept in skatepark design and was much more in tune with what street skaters wanted, even featuring real marble ledges.” For nearly a decade he’s used it as many local skateboarders have: as their training facility and community hub. Fellow professional skateboarder and co-founder of Antisocial Skateboard Shop, Rick McCrank, calls it “the internationally renowned heart of Vancouver skateboarding” because while it’s known worldwide (due to its inclusion in videos and magazines) it’s not only a great place to skate but also the place where locals meet up and hang out. Many local pros owe parts of their careers to the spot, and Spencer is one of them. He turned pro in 2012 and (when he’s not injured) has been touring the world skateboarding as his job ever since. When he’s in town he still spends the better part of his time at The Plaza.
Back in October the City of Vancouver approved a plan that involves the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts under which The Plaza sits. The talk of the town for the past year, this $200m effort is purportedly being paid for by “contributions from new developments”, which will be made up mostly of Community Amenity Contributions that condo developers pay the city when they build new housing units. They’ll also be selling and leasing the new land that’s going to become available when they take these large structures down. The two hundred million dollars (!!!) will be put towards:
– Designing, planning, and deconstructing the viaducts
– Building the replacement street network
– Upgrading sewer and water utilities
– Cleaning up the contaminated soil
– Improving Andy Livingstone Park
The 62 page planning report is overwhelming but I dug out mentions that a “replacement skate park” is factored in and is being lumped into an expenditure of $12-$24m for the park space being developed. What percentage of that will be for the skate park is unknown and with a timeline of 5 years, starting in 2017 when they begin demolition, there’ll certainly be a large gap between when the park is bulldozed and a new one is built. There’s been rumours of a new Plaza with a roof, providing cover from the elements that’s crucial to any skate park in our rainy city. Also rumoured is that there will be two new skate parks in the park space . Nothing has been confirmed so the future of The Plaza 2.0 remains to be seen. Regardless, Spencer and a legion of Vancouver skateboarders have memories of the place that will last a lifetime, some have careers built on it, and of course plenty of video footage. And one of them has some ink that he’ll bring with him throughout his entire life.
I’ll leave you with this recent video of a few of the locals. Spencer’s the one who’s shirtless throughout, and this was before he got the viaducts tattoo.