Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Playground Renovation

 MLK Park_Banner

The origin of Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Park (formerly Manhattan Square Park and Southeast Loop Park) extends back to the 1960’s and the era of urban renewal.  As the Inner Loop swept through downtown, it severed the connections between downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods.  In response, the City developed the Southeast Loop Renewal Plan that reimagined the area as a modern high‐density complex of inter‐connected commercial and residential towers, all framing a new park.    

Ultimately, the larger Southeast Loop Renewal Plan was never fully realized and as the park entered its fourth decade it became apparent that it was in need of major investment.  Physical deterioration; a lack of daytoday use; a rundown appearance; a lack of infrastructure necessary to accommodate people, events, and spectators, and issues related to safety plagued the park.  

In 1999, the City began an intensive community driven master planning process to guide the renewal and revitalization of the park. The 2002 Manhattan Square Park Master Plan recognized that while the park was clearly in decline, it contained numerous unique and valuable qualities that could be strengthened and built upon to anchor the past, including the modernist Landscape Architect Lawrence Halprin’s design, within a new vision for the present and future.  This plan established a park renewal vision and capital improvement strategy to best ensure long term community and municipal benefit.  Based upon the Master Plan recommendations the City has undertaken a series of phased projects to renew and reinvigorate the park.

About the Project

MLK Park_Project Site Download full size image The playground, located at 353 Court St across from The Strong, was last improved in 2004 and is nearing the end of its useful life and is in need of a significant renovation.  The water play features are no longer functional and the control equipment is outdated and incompatible with current City standards.  Multiple pieces of play equipment have been vandalized, damaged, or broken with use.  The safety surfacing and other surface finishes are failing and pose accessibility, safety, and aesthetic issues.  Physical access and visibility into and out of the play area is limited by the surrounding concrete walls, landforms and plantings, posing safety issues and limiting connectivity to the larger park and neighborhood. The deteriorating condition of the playground stands in stark contrast to all of the recent improvements to the park, the heightened level of programming and use, as well as the adjacent Inner Loop East development including The Strong expansion and the rising Neighborhood of Play.  

The City of Rochester is preparing the design of playground improvements to enhance the usability, functionality, safety, accessibility, and inclusivity of the playground for all users. 


  • Design: Fall 2023 - Fall 2024
  • Bid & Award: Late 2024 - Early 2025
  • Construction: Spring 2025 - Fall 2025

Public Engagement

Check back often for dates of future public information meetings, surveys and summaries of public input!

Design Workshop

The design team hosted two design workshops on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 (at Bausch & Lomb Library) and Tuesday, February 6, 2024 (at Park Square located at 10 Manhattan Square Drive). Participants shared their ideas for their “Dream Playground” through drawings, building blocks and discussions. These ideas will be used by the design team to develop schematic plan alternatives to present at future Public Meetings.

Inclusive Playground Questionnaire

The City utilized an online survey that was active from 1/22/2024 to 2/14/2024 to collect input from the community on how to incorporate inclusivity into the new playground design in a meaningful way. The results of the survey have been summarized into a document available for download at the link below.

Download Survey Summary

Want more information?

If you have questions or comments concerning the project, contact the City’s project manager, Amanda Phetteplace, Landscape Architect, Department of Environmental Services – Development Division at (585) 428-7248 or