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Hurst's Artisan Center Theater has big plans for humble home

HURST -- Several abandoned stores make up the Belaire Shopping Center, including the once-popular Belaire Theatre, which hasn't shown a movie in years.

But the award-winning Artisan Center Theater calls the shopping center home, and it's going to be there for at least the next five years and expand.

Artisan officials signed a lease extension Tuesday for the theater at 418 E. Pipeline Road, and they announced plans Wednesday for a $560,000 expansion project.

"This has never been done in the city of Hurst," Rick Blair, one of Artisan's founders, said Wednesday. "You have the property owner, a nonprofit theater group and the city investing in this project. That's why we sort of got into a group hug after everything was signed."

City officials will invest more than $56,000 to update the building's fire alarm and sprinkler system. Property owner A&S Properties of Garland also chipped in $56,000 for the expansion.

Artisan, which has occupied an old pizza joint at the Pipeline location since 2005, will use donations to help pay the remainder.

The announcement comes as city officials focus on redevelopment of the Bellaire Drive area.

"It's a step in the right direction," Mike Morgan, the city's planning director, said Wednesday. "We wanted people to have a family-friendly experience, and we're pleased."

Work could start within days to expand the theater from 6,000 to 26,000 square feet. Theater officials hope to complete the first phase -- a new 140-seat children's theater -- by June 1.

"We have summer camps starting after June 1, so that's why we want the theater to be complete by then," Blair said.

Phase two will turn Belaire Theatre into two rehearsal halls and costume and scene shops.

In the final phase, theater officials plan to expand the Artisan Center Theater from 150 to 200 seats.

Last year, more than 65,000 patrons attended shows at the Artisan, which has won numerous awards through the years. In 2009, Nickelodeon voted Artisan's children's theater No. 1 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Blair said the new lease and expansion have been in the works for years. Theater officials had considered moving elsewhere in North Texas, such as Southlake, but Blair said that the core group of patrons would not be willing to travel very far to attend a show.

Staying in Hurst "was like a sigh of relief," Blair said. "This is truly a dream come true for us."

Domingo Ramirez Jr.,

817-390-7763

Twitter: @stcrime

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