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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park

Recreating a community space through the revitalization of a historic park in the heart of the city

Rochester, New York

The former Manhattan Square Park opened in 1974 as part of the 60-acre Southeast Loop Plan, which was never fully realized. When first completed, the park was acclaimed as a modern marvel, but its heavy use declined as the surrounding area remained largely unused. Amenities closed, playground equipment was removed, and the ice rink needed constant repair.

Designing improvements took technical creativity and historical sensitivity. We opened up sight lines to increase views and safety by regrading, removing original hills, and raising several elements, including the ice skating rink. We also redesigned the ice rink as a summertime reflecting pool, incorporating a ramp into its sinuous shape to prevent water from flowing into the Zamboni storage and maintenance room. However, we retained the original Zamboni room and the pavilion, overcoming challenges to preserve the park’s history.

Creating a unique playground within the original layout was also challenging. Geofoam fill allowed us to design a new rounded hill profile, safety surface, new slides, and climbing humps.

Now, thanks to a revitalized design, the community can enjoy a modern, attractive, and safe play area that maintains the originally-intended flow. 

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