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October 19, 2016 | Tom Ballard

PART 2: Faris Eid left Knoxville for five years before returning

dia-architecture(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a two-part series on Faris Eid, a well-known Knoxville architect and business executive whose fingerprints are clearly visible on many local developments or redevelopments. Eid will be honored tonight {October 20} when the East Tennessee Community Design Center presents him with the “Bruce McCarty Community Impact Award.”)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

A little over five years after leaving Knoxville to work in Atlanta, Faris Eid returned to his adopted hometown in 1989 to found Design Innovation Architects+Interiors+Planners (DIA). He had three seed partners – Raja Jubran, Maurice Mallia, and R.M. Smith until he purchased their interests in 1994.

Today, 27 year later, his fingerprints can be found on historic, rehabilitated properties that are part of what makes Downtown Knoxville so attractive as well as new construction across the city. Most of the early developments in which he was involved shared several common characteristics.

“They included retail, office and residential,” Eid said. His first project was on Gay Street. Ironically, one of his current activities is just a block away.

“Our first downtown property was the Fowler’s Furniture Building, now named the Phoenix,” he says. “Wayne Blasius was working on it as the developer.”

Next up was a project with John Craig at 29 Market Square. Other well-known developments that bear the DIA imprint include the Knoxville Chamber’s offices on the top floor of the old Watson’s Department Store Building, the Mast General Store and Gallery Lofts building, PYA’s space in Cherokee Mills, the Medical Arts Building, the former University of Tennessee married student high-rise apartment building at Kingston Pike and Alcoa Highway now rebranded as The Tower at Morgan Hill, Knoxville Community Development Corporation’s office building, and the newly finished Boys and Girls Club facility.

One of DIA’s just completed projects is the transformation of the old Sullivan’s location in the Old City into Lonesome Dove Western Bistro. Two of the firm’s active projects span the spectrum – on the older building side is Dover Development’s redo of the old Farragut Hotel and the Pryor Brown building redevelopment, while the Regas Square condominium development represents the brand new project side.

For the engaging Eid, there’s a particular characteristic of projects he enjoys.

“I thrive on having something that people enjoy that is also a challenge,” he says, reminding us that “architects are problem solvers.”

While he says that he does not have a favorite project, Eid does cite the relocation of Pete’s Coffee Shop as an example of the type of challenge that he enjoys. The very popular downtown breakfast and lunch spot relocated to space that is part of a parking garage.

“We had to squeeze a restaurant into very limited space,” Eid explained. Those who have eaten at Pete’s get to enjoy the food and atmosphere without realizing all the behind the scene technical elements that make the space work. For Eid, that’s the way it should be.

“All projects have unique attributes,” he says. “It’s most gratifying for me when someone says you made a difference . . . you improved our community.”

DIA’s President gives considerable credit to his colleagues that he describes as “a top notch team.”

Eid is also proud of the role that he has played as a volunteer with the East Tennessee Community Design Center, a relationship that started within a year of his return to Knoxville. The organization honors him tonight with “Bruce McCarty Community Impact Award,” a recognition he shares with individuals like Ashley Caps, David Dewhirst, and Randy and Jenny Boyd.

As far as his entrepreneurial journey that includes a furniture start-up that was not a good idea, Eid is philosophical.

“I like to think that what I’ve learned about entrepreneurship is that, when I get with a client, I can identify with what they are doing,” he says. “My goal is to design something that will help a group or a community.” Eid is a board member of the EO Knoxville chapter and served as the president of the organization for two years running.

Today, more than 25 years after returning to Knoxville, Eid sees a very changed landscape, particularly downtown.

“We’ve lost a lot of old buildings that are now parking lots,” he observes while adding, “We’ve almost reached a saturation point” in terms of buildings in the center city to restore. “It’s time to replace the asphalt lots with new buildings to continue defining the high quality which we have salvaged in our historic structures.”

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