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Developer lands old school, construction to begin this winter

by Kyle McCLELLAN Western News
| September 21, 2007 12:00 AM

The old high school building, a city landmark that has endured in ruin and community indecision of historic proportions, has finally been sold to a Kalispell developer with serious plans for its revival.

A unanimous vote and audience applause Tuesday night set in motion the next stage of the building's existence, motion that's expected to last until late 2008 or maybe early 2009.

Motion that will trudge through the tedious routine of bureaucratic red tape, paperwork, homework, drawing, redrawing, engineering and eventual construction. "There's always surprises on a remodel. It's how we deal with those surprises," said Eric Berry, the project manager whose plans for the old high school will follow his success with the East Side Brick project in Kalispell.But it's a motion Berry has managed to completion before. And on a much larger scale."It's nothing compared to this project," Berry said, indicating the Kalispell project. "I look forward to this project as being a bit more relaxing," he said. Berry must have mastered relaxation at work because he's often at his projects "24/7", according to Superintendent Kirby Maki, who gleaned the information from city and building officials who worked with Berry on his Kalispell project."He responded quickly. He fixed things right away. He was easy to work with," Maki told the board as he noted certain accolades that surfaced during his background check.Maki said Berry's project took longer than anticipated but that Kalispell city council said it turned out "much better than they had anticipated."New school board member Paula Darko-Hensler, a former state legislator who was sworn onto the board Tuesday night, said, "One of the things that impressed me was the condominiums at that price and what is available in this town for that price and what you get for that price."The nine high-end condos would cost between $129,000 to $209,500.Berry said construction would begin in January or February after he has met with the city council.The contemporary style of urban living within the physical confines of an historic building is a combination prevalent in major urban areas but not in rural areas, Berry said."It's such an unusual thing to have an urban feeling dwelling in a historic building. I look forward to having it in my project list for next year."