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Kalispell developer shares vision for old school

| January 23, 2007 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Kalispell developer Bryan Scott on Monday night shared his vision for the old Libby High School.

Libby School Board seemed receptive to what could include the development of a town square around the renovated 90-year-old building.

Scott, investment executive with Flathead Financial Group, said he will tell the board by early March if his company wants to buy and renovate the vacant building primarily for offices. Work would begin this spring.

"It depends on economics," he said. "That's what it will boil down to 100 percent. We've looked inside and at the appraisal. I think it's feasible."

"This is a prominent building in the community," Scott continued. "We don't feel this will be our last project in Libby and not our only project this year. I feel good about the community. I feel good about the building."

The school board seemed pleased to possibly put an end to this multi-year saga.

"I'm excited you guys are interested," said school board chairwoman Teri Kelly.

"You speak very well and I applaud that," added school director Jerry Frament.

Flathead Financial Group expressed an interest in the building more than a year ago. That interest resurfaced about two weeks ago after Spokane developer ConoverBond decided it no longer wanted to buy the Mineral Avenue building.

A Missoula company that appraises historic buildings had determined the 1.7 acres occupied by the school is worth $240,000. Demolition costs for the building are estimated at $120,000, resulting in an "as-is" value of $120,000 for the building and the lot. ConoverBond decided it would not be worth doing a $2.5 million to $3 million renovation.

Asbestos would have to be removed from the old high school and the building would be gutted, Scott said. The exterior will remain the same, with the exception of new high-end windows.

Scott said he will put together a design team that includes a local architect, general contractor and engineer to see if it's feasible. He also hopes to have 40 percent of the space committed "before we spend $1."

Scott said he would be more than willing to share the parking lot with the nearby Memorial Center and make the property available for the Farmers' Market and Logger Days.

"We feel there's enough parking here," Scott said. "It will be a give and take relationship."

Flathead Financial Group is involved with the renovation of the former Kalispell General Hospital. For the last 30 years the four-story building has served as the Flathead County Courthouse annex.

The Kalispell project is committed to maintaining the historical features of this building, but also historical aspects of the neighborhood. The two floors will be high-end condominiums, the first floor will have offices and the lower level will have space for artists and coffee shop.

DEV Properties, which is involved with the Kalispell project and has done similar projects in Washington and Oregon, will likely be involved with the Libby project, Scott said.