Abandoned, historic church may get a new life as a skate park, arts center

National News

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – When you walk into St. Liborius Church in North St. Louis, you are immediately surrounded by elaborate graffiti done by artists from around the world, and a large competition-sized vert ramp.

Over the past 10 years, Dave Blum, along with other owners and volunteers, has been transforming the abandoned, historic St. Liborius Church into a skate park for the St. Louis community.

The church was established in 1856 and completed in 1889. It is the largest gothic revival church west of the Mississippi and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Renaming it Sk8 Liborius, the former church and rectory are in need of many renovations to meet city code and have it open to the public. Blum and his partners are seeking to raise $1 million to not only transform the facility into a skate park but also a center for underserved youth, and much more.

In 2016, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Liborius Urban Art Studios (LUAS) was established with a mission to preserve the historic St. Liborius Chruch and Rectory in North St. Louis and transform it into an art, music, skill training, education, mentorship, and action sports center.

“There’s a lot of underserved kids in St. Louis — a lot,” Blum said. “It just leads to this massive loss of creative potential. If you grow up … in the city, you might never find out that you love silk screening or photography because you never get to do those things. You’re just trying to survive in your neighborhood. And that’s just profoundly sad.”

Sk8 Liborius would serve as a third space for youth, teens, and adults.

“All human beings need like a third space. You have work or school, and then you have your home. You need like a third place. If you offer a productive third space, people go to it. But if not, they need a third space and they’ll find another one – whether like a bar, or a street corner, or drugs, or whatever it is. But that special outlet away from work and home is like a requirement for human beings,” Blum said.

“If we provide that space for kids, you could start a really good foundation for a healthy life.”

Phase 1 of the organization’s plan is to get the church and rectory up to code, in order to open the doors to the community as a skate park and art center and to transform a section of the building into a bed and breakfast to fund the Liborius Urban Art Center.

Phase 2 of the plan will be to open the Liborius Urban Art Studios and transform the lower level of the building into a maker space where community members can learn trade skills to create a livelihood.

Renovations to the building include new restroom facilities, safety and exit signage, infrastructure upgrades, windows and doors, an ADA ramp and an exit stairway. The organization also needs an occupancy permit for nonprofit businesses to operate an indoor skate and BMX park, as well as an occupancy permit to operate a bed and breakfast.

Sk8 Liborius is looking for monetary donations, but also volunteers to get involved with the organization. To donate and learn how to get involved visit Sk8 Liborius’ website, and follow on Facebook and Instagram.

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