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Runberg Recognized for historic preservation of Beardmore Block

Reprinted from the Priest River Times, July 9, 2008
By Nick Ivie, Staff writer

PRIEST RIVER— Preservation Idaho recently announced the recipients of the 31st Annual Orchids and Onions Awards. Among those honored was Seattle-based architect and developer Brian Runberg for his efforts in historical preservation of the Beardmore Block in downtown Priest River. The awardees were recognized at a reception and ceremony at the Historic Wilson Theatre in downtown Rupert with Brian being named as one of the six individuals or organizations to earn the highest level of distinction. “We felt the project met the highest standards and Brian is deserving in recognition,” said Preservation Idaho Spokesman Dan Everhart.

After the purchase of the building by the Beardmore Company in September of 2006 Runberg worked with a local labor force gutting and reinforcing the entire block before construction began. Restoration of the building that looks to be a key to downtown Priest River’s future is one thing, but making it a LEED certified, healthy building is another.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of the high performance green buildings. LEED building promote an approach to sustainability and focus on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environment quality.

The sustainable design integrates both new and old technologies from natural daylighting to rainwater recycling, from material reuse to harvesting solar power through photovoltaic panels. “The techniques will hopefully establish a unique precedent for treading more respectfully on this rich north Idaho region for the betterment of all,” Runberg stated. Runberg is currently working toward obtaining the State Historical Preservation certification in the coming weeks as well as the LEED certification.

When the criteria is achieved the building will be nearly 50 percent more energy efficient than even new buildings being constructed to meet current strict energy codes that will translate to substantial savings in operating costs for future tenants. Runberg stated “Amidst the current energy crisis and foreseeable future energy costs, this is an attractive alternative,” “One might describe it as driving a beautifully restored classic Cadillac that has the efficiency and technology of a Prius,” he added.

The historic block will feature three levels of retail and professional office space along with the infamous Rex Theatre. The theatre held its’ grand opening in 1923 showing Nell Shipman’s newest movie, “The Grubstake” even before it was nationally released. The theatre had dropped a long way since those days and suffered the most extensive damage with a caved in floor and many years of water damage. With construction coming to completion more attention can be turned to the Rex Theatre and the goal to restore the 225-seat theatre into a regional performing arts, cinema, and civic auditorium.

Stating that the project is not, “cost effective,” Runberg feels “this project is nearer and dearer to my heart than anything else,” “I’m hoping it will put some confidence back into the community.”