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Developer may have big plans for an old building

by Kyle McCLELLAN Western News
| August 24, 2007 12:00 AM

Another Kalispell developer came forward Tuesday night with a $150,000 offer to buy the old high school building and renovate its three floors into stylish lofts, office space and an artist space.

But a wary school board of trustees attempted to dig through the plans and emerge with the raw information it has been unable to find with four previous prospective developers.

"Are you the real deal?" asked trustee Gela Koehler.

If his previous project is any indication, Eric Berry may be the deal that fell into the board's lap.

Berry represents Kalispell-based DEV Properties, which is responsible for the EastSide Brick development in Kalispell — a stylish community of high-end condominiums, artists live/work studios, professional space and a cafe.

Eastside Brick was once the Kalispell General Hospital and is listed on the Montana Historic Architectural Inventory.

Berry's renovation of the historic building incorporates environmentally-conscious and technologically-superior elements into its sleek design. The project was developed using recycled material and solar and geothermal heating capabilities.

The old high school project will be similar to Eastside Brick project, which he said sold out of its 28 condos in two weeks.

Berry said the larger, more expensive condos will set the tone for the entire project in Libby.

Even the lowest-priced base condos will have Italian tiles and 100 percent wool carpet.

From there, buyers have the options of natural stones, like limestone and granite. Above that are natural woods and custom designs.

"They are going to be absolutely beautiful. We do not cut corners on our projects," Berry said.

Prices will range from $89,000 to $300,000.

"Right now, I know I could sell every unit in there just to people I know and people my Realtor knows."

Berry was quick to assure the board his interests lie in preserving old buildings and not big profits.

"I'm absolutely against tearing buildings down," he said. "You could not build that building today and have it be as substantial as it is."

Berry put the timeline for completion of the $2.4 million project at a relatively swift 16-to-18 months.

"The profit margin is not big enough for me to drag this on," he said.

The board plans to meet with all prospective developers at its Sept. 11 meeting.

If DEV Properties is offered the property, the next goal for Berry is to conjure community support.

"I wouldn't do anything without the community."

On Wednesday, Libby School District Superintendent Kirby Maki said the board was so far receptive of Berry's proposal.

"He sounded good. He handled himself. He handled the questions. He just seemed to have a better handle on how things work," Maki said.