The Blair Building in Decatur being refreshed, modernized with some improvementsThe Blair Building was built in 1939 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building spans 12,500 square-feet and two floors. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — The Blair Building in downtown Decatur is stepping into the modern day with some improvements that honor the building’s original design through colorful and layered patterns, stacked tile, lush fabrics and soft textures.
The Blair Building was constructed in 1939 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building spans 12,500 square-feet and two floors. It has been an office building for over 80 years and all the offices are currently leased to a variety of companies. Many of the tenants are focused around whole health and wellbeing.
“It’s just fun to be working on a building with so much history and so many people and companies that have come before us, and to try to do our part and do our best to continue having a space for it,” said Gene Kansas, cultural developer and founder of Gene Kansas, Commercial Real Estate. “We are a company with a focus on adaptive reuse and historic preservation, so to take a building that’s on the National Register of Historic Places and to just let it be what it is, is something that we feel very strongly about.”
Kansas has lived in the metro Atlanta area for 26 years and has loved the time he has spent in Decatur walking, playing and enjoying the architecture.
“I’ve just always noticed this quirky, fun, unique building, the Blair building,” Kansas said. “Our company does cultural development and historic preservation. Over the years, I’ve always wondered about it.”
GKCRE bought the building in July 2021. The previous owners, the architecture firm Martin Riley, will remain as tenants.
“In the meantime, we’re just providing some TLC and bringing this architectural gem into this day and age,” Kansas said.
He reached out to Smith Hanes Studio to help make the building be a place that “feels really special and welcoming, a place that anyone who comes in can feel comfortable if they’re in a suit or a sweatsuit,” Kansas said.
He added that the building is part of the fabric of the city of Decatur.
“We’re keeping that program and helping to make it the best version of itself, so fresh paint, new systems for modern energy efficiency, an improved landscape, and reducing some of the parking to accommodate for more green space,” he said.
On the interior, GKCRE in collaboration with Smith Hanes, are working to create a library bar, a multifunctional space that feels like a library but can be used for smaller events and tenants of the building. The space won’t be a bar that offers drinks, but will function as a break room amenity to the building.
“We’re redoing the bathrooms, and then we’re looking at that outside courtyard,” said Janine MacKenzie of Smith Hanes. “You look out to it from the library bar, but you access it around the back of the building. It’ll have some great landscaping and patio seating.”
Music will play a part in the library bar with a record set up and a selection of records that people can choose from and listen to.
“We have a couple of little Easter eggs that we’ve designed into the space that are music related and also book and reading related. I feel like it wants to be a holistic environment for comfort for the people who are using the space,” said Alanna Frierson of Smith Hanes Studio.
The Smith Hanes Studio team is most looking forward to seeing the library bar come to life at the end of a long corridor that leads people to the back of the building on the first floor.
“I’m most excited for when it’s done, when you walk in, when it feels good, the lighting good, the finishes around you are good, there’s a great song, a great record playing,” MacKenzie said. “That’s the most exciting part for me about what we do and what we’re doing on this project is how do you make spaces that feel really good to be in. That’s always the most thrilling and rewarding thing when it really works out.”
Kansas is excited about the hopeful sense of wonderment the Blair Building brings with the Alice in Wonderland feel from the outside but being transported back to 1939 on the inside.
“When you walk in, and you open this door that was put on the building in 1939, it’s the same weight, the same feel, and you go in, and the materials are of that vintage just new and fresh, and being invited in through the programming, I think and hope that people are happy and have that sense of wonderment.”
Kansas hopes to finish the project by the beginning of August.
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