After four years of planning and fundraising, work to expand the historic Davis-Shai House -- home of the Heath Community Arts Council -- is slated to begin in mid-June.

After four years of planning and fundraising, work to expand the historic Davis-Shai House -- home of the Heath Community Arts Council -- is slated to begin in mid-June.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $1.5-million project is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. June 13 at the facility, 301 Central Parkway, behind the Heath Walmart store.

The 5,400-square-foot expansion includes additional parking, a kitchen renovation and improved accessibility for disabled visitors. It also will expand the capacity of the center's largest room from 50 to 150 guests.

The changes, arts council executive director Jan Wilkin said, serve several purposes: More people will be able to participate in cultural events, and the center will be able to host larger private functions.

Last year, the arts council hosted 117 private functions and 69 cultural events, serving more than 9,000 guests, Wilkin said. The Christmas open house alone drew nearly 2,000 visitors to the facility, she said. The center turns away about 145 reservations a year because of its size limitations.

"Our issue is that our events fill up," Wilkin said. "That's why we don't do a lot of advertising. Also, people are requesting to use the facility as a rental facility, and they have larger groups than we can accommodate. We are trying to address those two needs."

The changes also will allow the center to offer Licking County residents a greater variety of programming, Wilkin said.

"We really want the door opened for us to explore new cultural avenues," she said. "We want to offer more music concerts and more dinner-theater. We have art exhibits, and I want to expand that, and I want to have a nice facility to display them adequately."

The renovations are expected to take 10 months to a year to complete. The center will remain open for the majority of that time, Wilkin said.

The work is being funded largely via two state capital-improvements grants totaling $1.025-million, administered through the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. The balance, Wilkin said, comes from corporate and private donations ranging in size from $5 to thousands of dollars.

Wilkin said the arts council considered three different renovation plans before going forward with the project. The plan selected, she said, pays tribute to the historic nature of the building.

The gothic revival-style home originally was constructed in 1861 by the Davis family. The house was erected near the Ohio and Erie Canal at what is now the intersection of Hebron Road and 30th Street.

In 1995, the Shai family sold the property surrounding the home and donated the structure to the city of Heath. The building was moved to its current 12-acre site on Central Parkway in 1996, where it was renovated and dedicated as a cultural-arts center in 2001.