At the turn of the century Watkins Glen was a thriving resort village - the jewel of the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It lies at the south end of Seneca Lake, the deepest lake in North America. Watkins Glen State Park, with its spectacular 1.4-mile-long natural gorge, is near the village's resort hotels. However, by the 1970s the village of Watkins Glen was becoming dilapidated. In 1980, a local public agency sought ways to turn around the county's troubled economy. The agency decided that renewed tourism was the best route to prosperity.

A master plan for the waterfront of Watkins Glen was created by Centerbrook using a storefront office, citizens' workshop, and television "Design-a-thons." The plan coordinated both public and private development.

As a result of this plan, the Appalachian Regional Commission awarded a grant for the purchase of waterfront land from Conrail and for the development of a waterfront park in 1981. Also that year, the Farmer's Home Administration awarded a grant for 80 units of housing for the elderly and a private developer announced 100 units of vacation housing on a waterfront site. A revitalized State Park Visitor Center and "Timespell" Sound and Light Show opened in 1982 and 1983 respectively. In 1984, Seneca Market was completed and a new municipal library was designed. A new fishing pier and pavilion on Seneca Lake was completed in 1985.

Centerbrook received a 1988 AIA Urban Design Award for the Watkins Glen Waterfront Development Plan.