Central Park Conservancy Brings the Park Into Its New Fifth Avenue Offices

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When the Central Park Conservancy moved from an old, cramped office to a new, full-floor one at 717 Fifth Avenue, the nonprofit’s leadership decided they wanted a bright, open space with plenty of green touches and, of course, photos of Central Park.

“They were in a very unusual space a number of blocks north right off the park,” said Daniel de Siena, an executive vice president and design director at MKDA who oversaw the design of the space. “Not your typical kind of office building. It was an older building, and they were on multiple floors. It was really antiquated space — everyone was siloed, and everyone had individual rooms here and there. Not a lot of natural light.”

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Betsy Smith, the CEO and president of the park steward organization, wanted the fresh, 31,500-square-foot space to enable communication, encourage small group meetings, and allow more places to do casual solo work. 

“She wanted it to be simple, classic, to hit all the benchmarks for efficiency, well-being,” said de Siena, who added that Smith “wanted the space to feel connected to the park as much as possible.” That meant blown-up photos of Central Park on various walls, including the Bethesda Fountain on a summer day behind a conference table, an image of the Bow Bridge during autumn in the reception area, and a backlit image of a tree-lined park path in the elevator lobby.

Other park-inspired touches include green lamps hanging from the ceiling, light green upholstered benches in the conference room, wood boxes with plants, glass walls frosted with translucent leafy decals, and hexagonal gray pavers on the floor in the elevator lobby and cafe area. There’s even a real wood and metal park bench — painted gloss black for a touch of class — in reception, which has a gray concrete and marble desk and a wood-slat accent wall. And a 7-foot-by-7-foot reproduction of the colorful ceramic tiles inside the Bethesda Terrace Arcade has been installed outside the CEO’s office.

The cafe has muted gray-green cabinetry, a pale green couch, simple white circular tables with black chairs, and a retractable wall patterned with a repeating gray motif of leaves. The movable wall allows the space to be connected to the organization’s conference room, which features two separate blond wood boardroom tables and can be further subdivided with another retractable wall. Much of the furniture is blond wood: walls for workstations, large storage cabinets, and desks and chairs in private offices and small meeting rooms.