New Penn Station overhaul proposal adds Vishaan Chakrabarti to design team

April 17, 2023

All images courtesy of ASTM North America

Earlier this year, Vornado Realty Trust shelved plans to redevelop the area around Penn Station with several office buildings, citing poor economic conditions. Revenue from the proposed 18-million-square-foot redevelopment of Midtown West was expected to help fund the renovation of the despised transit hub. With that proposal on hold, an alternative plan has materialized that promises to leave Madison Square Garden in place and cost less money than the original project. And on Monday, the design team announced a new addition: Vishaan Chakrabarti of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU).

ASTM North America and architecture firm HOK are pitching to government and infrastructure stakeholders a new plan for the overhaul of Penn Station. As first reported last month by the New York Times, the plan involves demolishing the 5,600-seat Theater at MSG on Eighth Avenue to make way for a new street-level entrance and building a 90-foot-tall glass podium around Madison Square Garden.

Inside, the transit hub would feature 55-foot ceilings above a new passenger concourse and a mix of retail and waiting areas. A new train hall built between 31st and 33rd Streets would be “wrapped in a 100-foot-tall glass enclosure,” according to the Times.

According to the team, the plan does not require the demolition or relocation of Madison Square Garden. ASTM told the Times its cost projection, which is expected to be released in June, will be “significantly less” than the original plan, which officials had estimated at $7 billion. Notably, the project would not add train capacity.

On Monday, ASTM and HOK announced Chakrabarti’s PAU will be joining the design team as a “Collaborating Design Architect,” according to a press release. Chakrabarti is familiar with the Penn Station project and has long been an advocate for redeveloping the station. In 2016, the architect unveiled his own plan to repurpose Madison Square Garden as a neighborhood gathering spot that would be relocated to the west end of the Farley Building as part of the transit station overhaul.

In a statement, Chakrabarti said his team has been “thoroughly impressed” with ASTM and HOK’s new concept and agrees with keeping MSG in place.

“As a longtime advocate for the revitalization of Penn Station, its rail capacity, and its neighborhood, I am thrilled that PAU will be partnering with HOK and ASTM to merge our visions and make our collective plan a reality,”  Chakrabarti said in a statement. “We have been thoroughly impressed with their concept — which promises a light-filled public transit hub similar to what PAU has always envisioned — and equally swayed by the extraordinary work the team has done to create stakeholder consensus.”

Chakrabarti added: “We have consistently stated that we are open to an approach that leaves Madison Square Garden in place if it can also result in a great public station, and we have finally seen a realistic concept that will achieve this in partnership with the community, the Garden, and the station’s constituents. It is time for us all to coalesce around a great and achievable vision for the future of Penn Station.”

According to a press release, more design and construction details are expected in June.

“We’re thrilled to announce the addition of PAU and its visionary founder Vishaan Chakrabarti to the project team, who will bring a unique perspective to this project,” Peter Cipriano, senior vice president for project development at ASTM North America, said in a statement.

“Vishaan has a record of demonstrated knowledge of the station, passion for the surrounding district, and deep appreciation for the concerns and priorities of the West Side residents and leaders, without whose support, no project will succeed. We have a rare opportunity to finally deliver a Penn Station deserving of New York City, and we are excited for a robust public engagement in the weeks ahead.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s original plan to rebuild Penn involved using tax revenue from the construction of 10 new buildings in the area to fund the project. The governor released a plan over a year ago that included redeveloping Penn Station into a single-level hall that would be larger than the halls of Grand Central and Moynihan combined and adding eight acres of public space.

But in February, Vornado CEO Steven Roth said the financial markets made it “almost impossible to build new.”

Hochul has not weighed in publicly on the new proposal; according to the Times, the governor said she would be willing to move forward on the project with or without Vornado.

The new proposal comes as Madison Square Garden’s operating permit is set to expire in July. In 2013, the New York City Council renewed MSG’s special permit at the current site for 10 years to give the Garden time to find a new location. Last week, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted to deny the bid for a permit unless it’s shortened to just three years and its owners plan to move, as Crain’s first reported. An MSG Entertainment representative told Crain’s, the company has no plans to move the famous arena.


All images courtesy of ASTM North America

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