“When I first went there for the first time, I had this vision of a kind of a people’s Florence,” Mr. Gehry said of North Adams in a phone interview. “These empty buildings could become galleries for specific artists, and sculptures could be placed around town.”
Mr. Gehry confessed to not being a train enthusiast: “Model railroads are not something I was infatuated with as a child. We were poor, and we didn’t have the money to buy that stuff,” he said. He has created a preliminary model of the building, but has not developed the design yet. “I don’t know what a model railroad museum should look like. It probably just needs to be a big warehouse, which I’m O.K. with,” he said, adding that he supposes Mr. Krens “wants something a little more visually active.”
Mr. Gehry was unaware that a few of his own buildings had been chosen by Mr. Krens for the museum. “He didn’t tell me that!” he said. “I don’t know which ones he’s picking, but I expect he’ll do it all justice.”
The city of North Adams has submitted an application for a $5.4 million grant from MassWorks, the state government infrastructure program, and the museum has so far raised $2.5 million from private contributions and state grants.
Mr. Krens expects that the museum could double the number of visitors that its neighbor Mass MoCA receives, based on an economic analysis, and in the process he hopes to turn North Adams, not far from the Clark Art Institute and the Norman Rockwell Museum, into an overnight tourist destination. He estimates that the museum will open by 2020, and is also planning future development for the area — including a bridge, to be designed by Mr. Gehry, and a luxury hotel.