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Theater group wants more time on downtown lease
Fifth Row Center asks Flowery Branch for 6-month extension
Fifth Row Center artistic director Donna Chalmers organizes mugs for sale Monday in Flowery Branch. The community theater is asking Flowery Branch officials for a six-month extension on its lease, which calls for $1-a-month rent. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Flowery Branch City Council

What: Consider Fifth Row Center’s lease request among other items
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: City Hall, 5517 Main St., Flowery Branch

A South Hall community theater group doesn't want the curtain to fall yet on its $1-per-month lease.

Fifth Row Center is asking Flowery Branch City Council to extend the lease on the century-old building it rents from the city for another six months, starting today, to give the group more time to gain a better financial footing.

"We're just now starting to see momentum with activity and income," said artistic director Donna Chalmers. "We just need some extra time to see that income be consistent."

The current one-year lease, approved by the City Council last summer, called for Fifth Row to pay $1 per month for six months and $250 a month for the remaining six months.

Fifth Row, which is midway through that lease, spent the first few months "trying to bring the building up to code, so we spent a lot of money, time and effort to make necessary changes," Chalmers said.

"We weren't able to get started with our plans until we were about halfway through that (first six months)."

The building's makeover traces to 2009, when the city began extensive renovations with the goal of putting the property - as well as one next to it — up for lease and injecting some life into the sleepy downtown.

Nearly $16,000 was spent to fix up the buildings next to City Hall, including more than $5,600 in structural repairs, City Manager Bill Andrew said.

After hearing about the open downtown space, Fifth Row approached city officials about a lease agreement and eventually got the City Council's approval.

The council is set to take up the lease request at its meeting Thursday in City Hall, 5517 Main St. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

Before the agreement with the city, Fifth Row operated mostly out of The Springs Church at 6553 Spout Springs Road. Growth in its program had nudged officials into looking for additional space and more of a permanent home.

Growth is continuing, as Fifth Row gears up for more classes and a production of "Charlotte's Web" that's set to start March 11. The group also is about to start up Blossom Creek Young Actors Studio, aimed at children and teens, on March 12.

As for paying its bills, Fifth Row is "not borrowing money from anybody," Chalmers said. "We're paying for everything from ticket sales, ad sales and classes."