A grassroots effort is hoping to fill an empty Washington Street storefront with a new youth destination.
Christiaan Cokas, a 33-year-old part-owner of and computer programmer with ESPN, said the coffeehouse and moved into the commercial space at 13 Washington Street in 2007. A third space remains vacant, and Cokas got the idea for an indoor skate park when he saw a photo of a setup a skateboard pro has in his garage.
“It is small for a skate park, but it would be enough,” said Cokas.
Cokas said a designer told him the park could be custom-built to take into consideration factors such as the low ceiling. The park would include mini-ramps, rails, stairs, and some items often not found in skate parks such as fast-turning features.
Cokas has started collecting funds through the website GoFundMe.com, and said early response has been good. A total of $570 had been pledged by Wednesday afternoon, after only a couple of days of fundraising. The project still has a long way to go, however. The goal is to raise $100,000, though Cokas said the park could get off the ground with $60,000.
“I think chances are pretty good,” he said.
The building is owned by New York-based Amber Properties and contains 19 apartments and 13,000 feet of commercial space, according to the company’s website. Cokas said he has been speaking with company president Peter Levine, who has offered to soundproof the ceiling to prevent any disturbance to residents. Cokas said the salon, located across a hallway from the space, is supportive. Parking remains a concern, he said, but he believes many people using the park will be dropped off or otherwise find a way to get there.
The project is still in the early stages, so several ideas have been discussed for additional features. These include whether or not to allow BMX bikes in the building; putting in a lounge area with couches, vending machines and arcade games; having musical performances in the off-hours; and moving the skateboarding shop to the building to serve as a pro shop.
Green Street Skates is currently in the process of moving across the street to the , but owner Chad Cocilo said he would support moving again to the Washington Street location.
“We’ve been talking about getting New London a skate park for at least 10 years,” he said.
Cocilo said the skateboarding provides not only a hobby, but an avenue to creative activities. He said the sport has helped get people interested in graphic design, photography, videography, and other areas.
“Hopefully it can have that same kind of draw that it had for me when I was growing up,” said Cocilo.
Michael Buscetto III, a city councilor and chairman of the , said he liked the idea.
“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “I don’t know much about the idea, but I think bringing kids to a facility or a center that’s constructive is great.”
Cokas said the park would be staffed by two people at all times. The current idea is to charge a $10 fee while also providing weekly, monthly, and yearly passes.
To pledge to the project, visit funds.gofundme.com/2k38c.
Correction: This article originally said the founder of Amber Properties is Paul Levine. The founder's name is Peter Levine.