Sk8 Liborius leaders plan next steps after a devastating fire at the St. Louis skate park
Supporters of Sk8 Liborius, the north St. Louis skate park that transformed a former church into a gathering place for young people, are nearly finished cleaning up after a four-alarm fire tore through the building last week.
As many as 200 people have turned up in recent days to help clear damaged items from the site, the organization’s leaders said. Thousands more sent words of support by text message and on social media.
Leaders of the organization have been gathering donations since 2021 to fund a planned expansion of the skate park into an arts hub and community center. They are putting those plans on hold in the immediate aftermath of the fire but plan to stay focused on the group’s mission.
“We’re really thinking about how we can stay invested in the community, stay skating, stay supporting the arts, stay working with our neighbors. Those are all the goals that we have right now,” said Lorna Kurdi, leader of Liborius Urban Art Studios, the nonprofit that was developing new programming for the group.
Donations to the online fundraiser set up to fund the organization’s expansion will now go toward its recovery.
On Sunday, volunteers shoveled broken glass into wheelbarrows and carried burned bricks to a dumpster.
A fence will go up around the damaged building this week, followed by site assessments that should help leaders of Sk8 Liborius, who had been leasing the building, plot a way forward.
“We’re looking at a lot of different options: putting a roof back on, stabilizing the walls, having to take the walls down – many different options that are all out there,” said Dave Blum, a cofounder of Sk8 Liborius. “And once we get the place buttoned up, we’ll be in a position to actually start exploring those options.”
The Gothic Revival building was built in 1856 and originally home to St. Liborius, a congregation that largely served German Roman Catholics. The aid organization Karen House opened a homeless shelter there after the church’s congregation left the building in the early 1990s.
With permission from the building’s owners, Sk8 Liborius later turned the church sanctuary into an indoor skate park that many users considered an essential gathering space for young people, particularly skateboarders whom authorities had prevented from skating on public property.
Neighboring New Roots Urban Farm experienced flooding from water poured onto the church by firefighters, lead farmer Antajuan Adams said. Some of the 25 chicks living on the farm escaped or were drowned, and a panel on the farm’s small greenhouse caved in.
Adams said he’ll conduct soil tests to determine how much of the micro-farm’s vegetable harvest was irreparably damaged.
“I’m an organic guy. I hang my hat on there being no harmful chemicals in my food at all. Depending on the levels of lead, it’s up to me to determine if that food is unsafe for the community, “ Adams said. “We give our food away to Black and brown low-income communities, and those are the ones that suffer from harsh chemicals more than anybody.”
Sk8 Liborius leaders Lorna Kurdi, Bryan Bedwell and Dave Blum joined “St. Louis on the Air” on July 14 to discuss the fire, the cleanup efforts and what’s next for the nonprofit. Listen to the conversation by clicking the play button below or find it on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast.
Tristen Rouse contributed to this report.