In Decatur, retro (and very purple) 1930s landmark set for updates

Sandwiched between two staples of Decatur’s food and beverage scene, the Blair Building is an architectural oddball for reasons beyond its unabashedly purple exterior. It’s also one of the coolest historic buildings around, as the new owner sees it.

Atlanta commercial real estate veteran Gene Kansas purchased the 1939 landmark in July and is preparing for renovations he says will honor its history and tradition.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Blair Building is one of just two examples of Streamline Moderne architecture—a sub-genre of Art Deco inspired by 1930s planes, trains, and automobiles—in the City of Decatur. It’s been an office building for more than 80 years and will continue to be, according to Kansas.


A historic photo of the Blair-Rutland Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy of Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate

Neighboring properties today include chef Kevin Gillespie’s Revival restaurant and Twain’s Brewpub and Billiards. Located at 215 Church Street, the Blair Building has been a shade of purple or pink for well over a decade—but that could change, Kansas says.

Kansas said passersby will start to notice changes—physical ones, unlike the property’s new Wes Anderson-inspired website—in coming months at the 12,500-square-foot, two-story building.


The Church Street building embodies the vernacular of Streamline Moderne, a sub-genre of Art Deco design. Courtesy of Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate

Howard Design Studio has been hired to create landscaping around the Blair Building that Kansas says will lend a storybook, wonderland vibe to the property.

“It will feel fun, and appropriate, a good combination,” Kansas wrote in an email.

Smith Hanes Studio is designing the interiors “to bring color and sophistication with a laidback and relaxed vibe,” says Kansas. Expect lush fabrics, stacked tile, playful patterns, and surprises such as Morse code built into the ceiling. A bar space for tenants and their guests called Library, for coffee or libations depending on the time of day, is also in the plans.

The Blair Building is fully leased, with the exception of a private study space—fit for four to six people, depending on use—that will be coming available in March, Kanas says.


Refreshed branding for the office building. Courtesy of Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate; designs, Office of Brothers


Courtesy of Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate

As for so much purple… Kansas says his team is thinking though what the final exterior color, or colors, will be. Over the decades, it’s been grey, purple, pink, and faded versions of each.

Kansas says he’s open to input on the color, which will be taken into consideration if left in the comments section below.

• Recent Decatur news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)

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