Model railroad museum in North Adams gets more time for park deal

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NORTH ADAMS — The city and developer Thomas Krens have agreed to extend the option that the Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum has to purchase Western Gateway Heritage State Park.

After the two parties met Monday, they agreed to extend the current deal, which was set to expire this month, through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, according to Mayor Thomas Bernard.

The extension of the current deal will allow the two sides more time to negotiate a new option agreement.

In 2017, the model railroad museum signed an option to purchase the former Sons of Italy parcel on Christopher Columbus Drive and Western Gateway Heritage State Park.

Both properties are overseen by the North Adams Redevelopment Authority and are part of Krens' plans for the model railroad museum, which he believes could draw hundreds of thousands of annual visitors and a number of other endeavors, including a distillery at Heritage State Park.

"They see a path forward, and I don't want to speak for their process, but they want to create this museum in North Adams and see the property that's already under option as a key to that," Bernard said.

Benjamin Sosne, senior project manager for the museum, said the city and North Adams Redevelopment Authority have been "wonderful partners" in the negotiation. "[We are] absolutely committed to getting something done, and we appreciate working with the city thus far," Sosne said. "Every intention is to close on the property and build this thing."

The initial option agreement required an upfront payment of $20,000, with a final price of $1.2 million if the museum exercised the option to purchase. When the museum chose to extend the option a second year, into 2019, it had to pay an additional $30,000 deposit.

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"What I've made clear to them is, I would want there to be a larger option payment," Bernard said.

Not only would the deposit assure the city that the developer is substantially invested in the property, the cash would allow improvements to be made in the meantime at the park, which still has tenants like the Freight Yard Pub.

"That's one of the reasons why I would like to see more money in the option payment, to allow us to address some of the immediate things that need to be done, understanding that gets rolled into what they acquire," Bernard said.

The current option to purchase has been on the table for two years.

"A little more skin in the game early will help to move things along to a faster close, ideally," Bernard noted.

He expects the new agreement to also have an initial term of one year. The final purchase price likely would remain in the ballpark of $1.2 million, Bernard said.

"This is all subject to the next stage of discussion," he added.

The city has been in efforts to privatize the publicly owned park since at least 2011, under former Mayor Richard Alcombright.

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


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