BISMARCK — The group behind the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library has begun the formal process of selecting an architect to design the project.

The library foundation's board of trustees is now considering the qualifications of a dozen architecture firms before it picks up to three to submit fleshed-out designs for a formal competition.

The firms that sent the board a list of their qualifications, a proposed team of architects and answers to a few project-specific questions include some of the biggest names on the global architecture scene. Eight of the firms in the running are from the United States, while four are based in Europe. Two other European firms that the board invited to submit their qualifications declined to participate.

The 12 firms under consideration by the board are:

The board will conduct interviews with the architects at the beginning of next month and select up to three finalists on May 18. Each finalist will be paid $50,000 and reimbursed for travel to the site. The board then plans to hear presentations with floor plans, models and renderings from the firms in September before announcing a winning candidate later that month.

A document outlining the board's vision says the library should feature architecture that "transcends time" and "doesn't adhere to a particular style." The building should also be a model of sustainability that embraces the natural landscape of the North Dakota Badlands.

Last month, the board selected a desired site for the library along the Maah Daah Hey Trail about 1.5 miles from downtown Medora, a Western-themed tourist town in southwestern North Dakota. If the 50-acre site cannot be acquired from the U.S. Forest Service, a different nearby site will be chosen, foundation CEO Ed O'Keefe said.

Last year, state lawmakers approved a $50 million endowment for the project if the library foundation can raise $100 million in private donations. O'Keefe told Forum News Service fundraising efforts are going "phenomenally well" and confidently said he expected the board would reach the lofty goal before the beginning of the next state legislative session in January 2021. However, he would not disclose the foundation's progress.

O'Keefe said the project will mean millions of dollars in private investment and jobs for North Dakotans during hard economic times.

As the name suggests, the proposed library is meant to honor and recount the complex story of Theodore Roosevelt, the one-time governor of New York who became the 26th president of the United States. As a young man, Roosevelt spent parts of three years hunting and ranching in the North Dakota Badlands before his career in national politics.

Library board adds two new trustees

The library board has also added an accomplished businesswoman and a philanthropist with a famous North Dakota name.

Linda Pancratz and Eileen Scheel will become the 11th and 12th members of the board Tuesday, April 28.

Pancratz, who grew up in Grand Forks and attended the University of North Dakota, is the CEO and chairwoman of investment company Mountain Capital. She has also served on several other corporate boards in the U.S. and the United Kingdom and overseen significant fundraising efforts for her alma mater.

Scheel has financially supported the University of Mary, North Dakota State University and the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Scheel's husband, Steve, is the chairman the board at Scheels, a Fargo-based sporting goods company with 10 locations in North Dakota and Minnesota.