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Old Flowery Branch home gets new look, with plans set for a temp agency office
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Renovations on a two-story historic home continue Tuesday in Flowery Branch. The home is being converted into offices for a temporary staffing agency. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

FLOWERY BRANCH — For more than a century, the two-story home on Atlanta Highway at East Main Street had served as a boardinghouse and family home.

Amid the years, as the house changed hands, there was even talk of converting the wooden, colonial-revivalist structure into a bed-and-breakfast inn.

Kellin and Kim Dobbs of Flowery Branch since have bought the property, but they’re not sitting idly with plans or dreams.

They are renovating — and vastly modernizing — the 4,000-square-foot structure into office space for Staff Right, a temporary staffing agency set to open the first week of August.

Dobbs, whose firm, Hortman & Dobbs, is developing the multifaceted Old Town Flowery Branch across the street, said he was approached by the previous owner about whether he had interest in buying the property.

"It’s funny you mention it," Dobbs said he told the owner. "My wife has always had an eye for this house ... and had made the comment that she would love to have her office here."

The couple bought the house in November with the notion of moving Kim Dobbs’ business from Bristol Industrial Way in Buford.

"I tell you, when I walked through the front door ... I said I didn’t have to change a thing," she said, talking about her first impressions. "We didn’t change anything about the house (layout) at all."

First things first, though. As the home was in the city’s newly redrawn historic district, the couple had to jump through a few government hoops.

They had to obtain a "certificate of appropriateness" from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, said City Planner James Riker.

And they "had to submit a building plan showing the renovation work inside, and that had to be reviewed by the planning department and then the (Hall County) fire department," Riker said. "And then, (the Dobbs) had to submit a parking lot plan for review by the city engineer."

After everything became official, the Dobbs began the makeover in earnest.

"We completely gutted the upstairs, because it was a disaster," Kellin Dobbs said.

"But we didn’t change anything. ... The house is just as it was," his wife added.

The couple has kept many of the home’s original features, including flooring, doors, fireplaces and woodwork intact.

They have touched and fixed up throughout the home, adding new lighting fixtures and a central heating and air conditioning system.

The foundation needed some work, particularly toward the back of the house, where floors were sagging.

"This room has a slight tilt, but we decided, through jacking it up as much as possible, to leave it," Kellin Dobbs said in one of the rear rooms, during a tour Tuesday morning. "It kind of adds to the character of the house."

One of the home’s most noticeable features is its second-story balcony, a project unto itself.

The balcony had a shed roof that hampered people, particularly those on the taller side, from catching a glimpse of downtown Flowery Branch across the street, as well as trains zipping through town.

"It was a nonfunctional porch," Kellin Dobbs said.

A new balcony with lighted ceiling fans — and plenty of head room — has taken its place.

Dobbs also will keep an office there, as he works to develop Old Town Flowery Branch, a $15 million plan for boutiques, eateries, town homes and a parking garage, in the downtown area. Phase one of the project could begin in the middle of 2010, he said.

Kellin Dobbs said he believes the house and the work to restore it has been eye catching for passing motorists, perhaps wondering about the finished product.

There’ll be some who are disappointed "they can’t stay here or eat here," Kim Dobb said, laughing.

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