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Central Park's Cherry Hill Concourse: Room with a view


The Cherry Hill Concourse in Central Park recently underwent a renovation. Among the changes were a simplication in its appearance in order to not distract from the views of the surrounding lake. Photo courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy.

Less is more.

That was the thinking behind the renovation of the Cherry Hill Concourse in Central Park, where a ribbon cutting ceremony was recently held to signify a simpler -- and greener -- approach that should keep most visitors’ eyes focused on the vistas of the surrounding lake.

“The most important design objective we had was that it was not a plaza,” said Chris Nolan, the Central Park Conservancy's vice president of planning, design and construction. “It was a concourse, and precedent was given to the experience of the landscape, not a space created by the pavement material. We wanted to pick a [complementary] material that emphasized the fact that the whole design was about cueing up this view to the lake and not be visually distracted by drawing your vision down to the pavement.”

Gone are the three tiers composed of impervious materials such as solid brick and stone that separated the landscape margin from the pedestrian path and the concourse itself. As Nolan noted, such an arrangement provided no outlet for runoff water, leaving it with no other option but to head to the catch basin and into pipes directly into the storm water system. 

Cherry Hill Concourse BEFORE

Before the renovation, the Cherry Hill Concourse featured three tiers. The new look was designed to create a better flow of visitor traffic and appeal to those traveling by way of foot, bicycle or horse carriage. Photo courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy.

In their place, a porous resin-bound aggregate will allow rainwater to filter through the pavement into a stone ballast beneath it, which will allow for infiltration back into the soil profile while slowing down the peak runoff. In fact, only in torrential storms will there be a potential for the runoff to hit an overflow pipe, Nolan said.

The new aggregate is not completely different from traditional asphalt. Instead of having sand serve as a binder for gravel and tar, though, the aggregate is held together by the resin, allowing each particle to glue together.

“As I was going through the public review process, I kind of referred to it as yet the paving kind of becomes a giant Rice Krispie cookie,” Nolan said. “The aggregate are like pieces of Rice Krispies, the puffed rice, and the granular space allow for things to seep down into the reservoir below.”


Before the 1980s renovation, the Cherry Hill Concourse had become a circular parking lot as seen in this photo, which dates back to the '70s. Photo courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy.

The concourse was an original element of Central Park, dating back to 1859. The fountain standing in the middle, which underwent slight renovations, was installed in 1871 for the purposes of watering the horses for the horse carriages that would frequent the area. That fact was not lost on Nolan and company when it came to creating a new vision for the space after receiving approval from the city’s Public Design Commission.

“It was one of the main ways to experience the park was from the perspective of the carriage drive,” Nolan said. “People do tours in these carriages, but it’s not a primary experience in the park, but you still experience the carriage drive, you just don’t do it from a carriage. You do it from a bicycle. You do it from walking.

“Like I often tell people that the joggers on the drive and people on bikes are the modern-day horse carriage and our interest was restoring and preserving that experience. It’s distinct from the other pedestrian experiences you have in the park.”

It was the final step of a five-year renovation project around the lake that included improvements to Wagner’s Cove in its southwest corner. The Central Park Conservancy will now focus its attention on two playground projects, while continuing its landscaping work along the Rhododendron Mile on the east side from 85th and 96th streets.

Have you checked out the new Cherry Hill Concourse? If so, what are your thoughts? We’d love to hear them.

Cherry Hill Concourse Ribbon Cutting

The team of ribbon cutters at the recent unveiling of the newly renovated courcouse consisted of, from left, Suzanne Cochran, John Stossel, Liz Atwood, Adrian Benepe, Doug Blonsky and Janet Ross. Photo courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy.


Green Playground Solutions

Great design for the parking and looks unique too.

bob h

the agrregate has already disintegrated into cheap looking gravel. and there are motor oil stains all over. cherry hill looks like a parking lot of a dollar store now. very poor spending of Conservancy resources. result is similar to the American Elm walk...which also looks far worse than before the 'renovation'. I think the Conservancy has too much money to spend.

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