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Prospect Park: A look behind the scenes at Lakeside

We got an early tour of Prospect Park’s spanking-new complex, coming in December. Here are five features families can look forward to.

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Lakeside at Prospect Park: Added green space

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Lakeside at Prospect Park: two multiuse skating rinks

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Lakeside at Prospect Park: Concert Grove

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Lakeside at Prospect Park: Music Island

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Lakeside at Prospect Park: Rediscovered 19th-century objects

Photograph: Luciana Golcman

Lakeside at Prospect Park: Added green space

Prospect Park’s Lakeside complex, in development since late 2010 and due for completion in December, is set to be a marvel of new design, historic reconstruction and ecological restoration—and an absolute boon to city families. We donned hard hats for a behind-the-scenes tour of the site by VP for design and construction Christian Zimmerman and Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson, who filled us in on the project’s various components, including a new ice-skating rink, roller-skating rink and much more.


More green space

Lakeside’s new skating area will be fully integrated into the rest of Prospect Park rather than fenced in like Wollman Rink, its predecessor. Landscape architects are converting a former parking lot into a verdant pasture, adding three new acres of parkland. A “buried building” housing locker rooms, restrooms and a café will be topped with a green roof that blends into the existing terrain: two thirds lush, rolling hills and one third bluestone-paved terrace.


Two multiuse skating rinks

Get ready, Michelle Kwans–in-training: Two rinks (one open-air and the other covered), totaling 30,000 square feet, will be available for use year-round. During winter, they'll either be connected to create one spacious expanse, or split between hockey and public skating. In the summer, the alfresco rink will act as a water playground—featuring 41 aqua jets and a reflecting pond to cool down kids and adult alike—while the other will be reserved for roller-skating. The rinks’ designers enlisted a professional roller skater to test possible floors and determine the ideal level of skid resistance.


Concert Grove

When urban planner Robert Moses built Wollman Rink in 1961, he eliminated several Olmsted and Vaux–designed elements in the process—including Concert Grove. VP of
design and construction Christian Zimmerman and his team are restoring the lakeshore to its former glory by using old photos to re-create the original plans. The waterfront esplanade is shaded by towering trees planted in 1869, and will feature part of the original stone retaining wall—ornate 19th-century carvings included—and additional seating. There’s no vantage point from which to see the whole lake at once, an Olmsted-Vaux design trick that creates the illusion of a much larger body of water.


Music Island

This piece of geography, which had been used for speeches and live music, was eliminated during the construction of Wollman Rink. Park architects have rebuilt the nearly five-acre island and cove, planting trees and water lilies that will provide a sanctuary for the more than 200 species of birds that pass through Prospect Park each year. We spotted two lovely swans (and lots of turtles) during our visit; your crew may also spy red-winged blackbirds and Baltimore orioles.


Rediscovered 19th-century objects

Plans have evolved as workers dig up artifacts from the 1800s. If the found objects are intact, Zimmerman will incorporate them into the complex; if they aren’t, he'll replicate their design. For instance, crews discovered an 1869 stone drinking fountain, featuring water-spitting gargoyles, which had been knocked over and buried when Wollman was erected. A full restoration is planned once funds are obtained.

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