A chalk pastel conceptual drawing by Richard Cameron. Atelier & Company

It would rectify "one of the greatest civic blunders ever committed."

They say you can't repeat the past, but when the past was as lovely as New York's original Penn Station, it's worth a shot.

Richard Cameron and James Grimes of the architecture and design firm Atelier & Co., in Brooklyn, have developed a plan to rebuild New York City's old Penn Station in all its former glory. The original McKim Mead & White structure, which opened in 1910, was torn down in 1963 and replaced with the current underground station that serves 600,000 passengers a day. In Traditional Building (spotted by Curbed), Clem Labine offers the new plan's details and makes the hard sell:

A rebuilt Penn Station would give New York back its monumental gateway of which it was robbed in 1963. Today’s train passengers are required to navigate a depressing warren of gloomy passages instead of passing through McKim’s sequence of inspiring vaulted spaces.

According to Labine, the new Atelier plan consists of three main parts.

Reconstruct the grand spaces.

The first task of a Rebuilt Penn Station would be … rebuilding Penn Station. Labine points to 353 original McKim Mead & White drawings in the archives of the New-York Historical Society to "jump-start the design process." There are also plenty of other photographs that capture the 84 Doric columns, and the spacious concourse and its glass canopy, and the vaulted ceiling of the marble waiting room that Labine writes "never failed to impress and uplift anyone who entered."

The original Penn Station concourse. (Cervin Robinson)

Create a modern local transit hub.

The original Penn Station was meant primarily for intercity train passengers. But it's the local transit riders using the subway, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island Railroad who account for most of the hub's passenger action today. In any rebuilt Penn Station, "service areas for these daily commuters must take top priority," writes Labine.

A new emphasis on local transit would get easier with the completion of Moynihan Station—the new Amtrak passenger area being built across the street from Penn. Moynihan isn't fully funded yet, but even if it's completed, writes Labine, there will still be half a million travelers using Penn Station every day.

A reinterpretation by Jason Grimes. (Atelier & Co)

Redevelop the surrounding area.

The third leg of the Rebuilt Penn Station plan is to turn the immediate surrounding area into a "beautiful urban ensemble," writes Labine, an effort that involves "creating a great urban outdoor room on the north side of the station." Such a plan would fit in well with new developer interest in improving the Penn Station neighborhood. It would also mean relocating Madison Square Garden, which sits atop the station—a shift that seems to be in the making anyway, given the time running out on the arena's lease.

Charcoal on trace by Richard Cameron. (Atelier & Co.)

All told, the Atelier plan is expected to cost some $2.5 billion. That's a steep cost for an effort that wouldn't do anything to improve the biggest mobility issue facing Penn Station: tunnel capacity under the Hudson River. But it's not out of line with some of the other transportation mega-projects taking plan in New York at the moment, and it would rectify what Labine calls "one of the greatest civic blunders ever committed." He concludes:

We owe it to future generations to fill the hole in the physical and spiritual fabric of the city created by the barbaric acts of 1963. The plans are in place; all that’s needed is political will.

H/t: Curbed. All Atelier & Co. images used with permission.

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