Design competition seeks to breathe new life into Park Avenue’s malls

Park Avenue’s medians have been a fixture on the New York City thoroughfare for more than a century, and serve various purposes beyond simply dividing the street’s lanes of traffic.

In the winter, the stretch between 54th and 97th streets is lined with Christmas trees; at other points, sculptures bring a bit of visual interest to the roadway. (And one permanent sculpture, by Louise Nevelson, is a fixture at the 93rd Street median.)

But they’ve remained largely unchanged since they first appeared at the turn of the 20th century, save for a new planting or two—something that developer Fisher Brothers, which owns the Emery Roth-designed 299 Park Avenue, is hoping to change. The firm has launched a design competition, Beyond the Centerline, inviting people to “bring these underutilized islands of green into the 21st century,” according to a press release.

“We view it as a way to demonstrate to the city the possibilities of what these medians can become,” Winston Fisher, a partner at the firm, said in the release. A panel of judges, including architects David Rockwell and Vishaan Chakrabarti, and landscape architect Signe Nielsen, will choose the winning design, and 10 submissions will be on view to the public after the competition closes in February.

Participants will be tasked with revamping the stretch between 46th and 57th streets, and while the specifications for the contest are not super limiting, there are some things that entrants should keep in mind—namely, the fact that pedestrians still need to be able to cross Park Avenue. The judges will also take each project’s eco-friendliness, community impact, use of technology, and feasibility into account