Business Q & A

Five questions with ... Mac McKee

Mac McKee gets to work in one of the coolest new/old places in town: the restored GLMV Architecture building at 1525 E. Douglas.

The firm rehabbed for its headquarters what was built as the city’s Packard dealership but has been a number of businesses. Most recently it held SignPro and a warehouse for neighboring printing company McCormick Armstrong.

Much of what makes it cool is how the architects have incorporated into the restoration touches of the original business: The car ramp to the second floor is now a sweeping staircase with a series of terraced gathering spots, the original wooden ceiling remains on the second floor, the original showroom spotlights have been repaired and now work.

McKee, the firm’s executive vice president, is both one of the firm’s architects and the firm’s risk manager. McKee, 63, is married to Robbie, and they have five children and five grandchildren between them.

Q. 1 Why did you renovate the building?

A. When we merged two years ago, we were still in two locations. … This was the closest thing we were able to find, as close to downtown as possible. The merger really was great, but we had to have one building.

Q. 2 Why stay downtown?

A. Politically, it makes sense for us. We do a lot of work with the city and the county and others, so we wanted that presence. We’ve always had it, and we wanted to maintain it.

Q. 3 How has the merger gone?

A. Not only was it a merger of like type work, but there were a few new studios brought forth by the merger. And it’s gone very well.

Q. 4 What do you like most about the new headquarters?

A. When we first saw this building, McCormick Armstrong let us in and it was open, big ceilings and had paper everywhere. We go through this tiny little staircase that took us upstairs and, even through pallets of paper everyplace, we go, “This is it. This is it.” It’s just the openness, the trusses. You just don’t find that kind of character in a lot of buildings anymore and, as an architectural firm, thinking how cool it is to live in a historic building, very unique inside with the exposed trusses and wood decking.

Q. 5 Was it worth it to jump through the many, many hoops needed to get the historic designation and the historic tax credits?

A. Once we found the building and knew it had potential to be historic, then it became a plus, not just from the tax credit side, but what better use than to take a beautiful old Art Deco-style building and bring it back, restore all the terra cotta on the outside, the glazing. I mean, it was a great opportunity to restore an old building.