Design, construction teams picked for Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum

Former Guggenheim Foundation Director Thomas Krens shows famed architect Frank Gehry a model of the Empire State Building, part of the planned Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum in North Adams during a site visit last September. Gehry has been contracted to design the exterior of an 83,000-square-foot building. More recently, it was announced that Skanska USA and the Gilbane Building Company have signed onto the project.

NORTH ADAMS — Two more companies have climbed aboard the Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum.

EMRCA Inc., announced Sunday that Skanska USA and the Gilbane Building Company have signed on to build the proposed 83,000-square-foot museum near Western Gateway Heritage State Park.

From the late 19th century through today, the museum is expected to take visitors on a tour of architectural and railroad history with more than 1,200 scale model buildings and 100 scale model trains in a theme park-like atmosphere catered to families, railroad enthusiasts and architecture fans alike.

Skanska USA, based in New Jersey, will serve as the owner's project manager and complete the design phase before overseeing the entirety of the museum's construction.

Joining Skanska will be Rhode Island-based Gilbane Building Company, which will directly oversee the construction team.

"These are firms with a reputation, and they've also worked in Western Massachusetts,"said EMRCA Chairman Thomas Krens.

The two companies are no strangers to each other; they worked together to oversee the construction of the new Taconic High School in Pittsfield, which is nearly complete.

Gilbane, in particular, is well-versed in the construction of museums, having overseen the 2017 construction and expansion of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, as well as more than 30 other museum projects.

Krens credited Perri Petricca with coordinating discussions with Gilbane and Skanska. Petricca is president of Pittsfield-based Unistress Corporation and a member of the museum's fledgling board of directors.

"Since late last year, Perri's role in communicating with Skanska and Gilbane on our behalf, and helping us frame the building program in the most cost-efficient manner, has been an asset of incalculable value," Krens said in a statement.

Sunday's announcement was the first major development announced by the model railroad museum since it brought on world-renowned architect Frank Gehry last September.

"It's a sign of progress," said North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard. "I think it speaks to them having defined a scope that they feel comfortable moving forward with as well as steps that will allow them to proceed with the next stage of fundraising."

The architect, museum, Skanska and Gilbane will collaborate to take the architect's concept — which is still in progress, Krens said Sunday — and transform it into a construction blueprint.

"The goal that we have set for ourselves is to be under construction this time next year," Krens said, though he noted the project is not held to a firm timeline.

Construction would likely take two years, according to Krens.

In a grant application last year, the museum pegged the cost of the museum construction and Heritage State Park renovation at about $65 million in total.

The model railroad museum was first announced in 2015 by Krens, the former Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation director and the man who conceived of Mass MoCA.

Originally proposed to be built at the Heritage State Park, the museum site has since shifted south to the former Sons of Italy parcel on Christopher Columbus Drive, which is also owned and overseen by the North Adams Redevelopment Authority.

Heritage State Park is still part of Krens' overall vision and would be home to a distillery, a new museum dubbed the Massachusetts Museum of Time, and two restaurants.

The model railroad museum, which currently has offices at the park, has an option to purchase it for $1.2 million from the North Adams Redevelopment Authority that is not yet exercised.

The option expires in May, but can be extended by the museum for a year upon payment of $30,000.

Krens and Bernard said both the city and museum expect the museum to extend the option into 2019.

An economic impact study commissioned by the museum estimated Krens' plans could add 1,400 permanent jobs to the local economy and generate $125 million of economic activity annually.

Adam Shanks can be reached at, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.