Landmarks approves design for $77M renovation of Delacorte Theater in Central Park
Rendering courtesy of Ennead Architects.
The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday approved plans for the revitalization of Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, the city’s first major post-pandemic outdoor theater investment. The new design’s main goals are to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, protect the building from the ravages of a changing climate, and improve efficiency and comfort.
The green light from LPC follows a warm reception during a process that gave local community boards and other stakeholders a chance to weigh in. The presentation before the Landmarks Commission–which included testimony from theater icon Sam Waterston–was the final step for the proposed design can move forward.
In 2018, 6sqft reported that Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, home of Shakespeare in the Park, would be receiving its first major renovation since the open-air theater was built more than 50 years ago. The Public Theater announced on Wednesday it is moving forward with the redesign, complete with new renderings, after meeting with stakeholders and the community. The proposed design, in partnership with the Central Park Conservancy, the NYC Parks, and Ennead Architects, will now be presented to local community boards and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“As our city’s cultural institutions rebound from their most challenging year on record, these crucial improvements to The Delacorte signify that New York is back and ready to meaningfully invest in our culturals once again,” Arielle Tepper, chair of the Public Theater Board, said in a statement.
“After nearly sixty years of providing free Shakespeare and performance art to countless residents and visitors to our city, this design will renew The Delacorte’s promise of delivering free artistic brilliance to diverse audiences for decades to come.”
The project will also focus on revitalizing the theater’s exterior. The design illustrates canting the exterior slightly outward and making sure its surface blends with the changing seasons in the park. To improve resiliency and sustainability the plan replaces current decking with park-approved materials. Lighting improvements and new towers seek to improve the venue’s ambiance and theatrical experience overall as well as safety for crew members. Exterior and interior signage will also be upgraded.
Ennead Architects also helmed the 2012 revitalization of the Public’s Lafayette Street flagship. The firm has led many revitalization projects throughout the city including the Brooklyn Museum entry pavilion and plaza, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, and the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History.
The project has an expected cost of $77 million, with $41 million contributed by the city and the rest, privately raised. Work is currently scheduled to begin in the fall of 2022. The project will be done in phases so the theater can be available for audiences and artists as much as possible.
Actor and trustee Sam Waterston weighed in on the announcement: “Where would we be without the Delacorte, where, at the center of its heart, Central Park, in the midst of its woods and meadows, all the people of this city made of concrete and steel can come together and find what the theater and nature has to say about what it means to be alive?”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story was published on December 8, 2021, and has since been updated.