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ESD announces new headquarters & visitor center for Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor


Wed, May 31st 2023 01:40 pm

Center said to enhance visitor experience, showcase Buffalo’s proud African American history

Submitted by Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) announced the opening of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor’s (MSAAHC’s) new headquarters and visitor center.

A press release stated, “The MSAAHC is a nationally and internationally recognized Buffalo neighborhood that serves as the focal point for residents and visitors to learn about Buffalo’s rich African American history and its significant impact on local, national and international history.

“Establishing a home for the not-for-profit MSAAHC Commission in the corridor at 136 Broadway – a key objective of the Corridor’s Strategic Plan completed in 2022 – will make it easy for people to navigate the various historic sites in the corridor and participate in a variety of events and activities.”

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The new visitors center and headquarters provides a convenient, comprehensive gateway for guests and residents to experience the wide variety of sites and activities in the African American Heritage Corridor. Under Gov. Hochul’s leadership, New York state is a proud partner in the collaborative effort to elevate this treasured heritage destination in Buffalo, and we encourage visitors to reflect on, learn from, and honor the past as they tour and enjoy all the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor has to offer.”

New York state provided a $2.3 million grant for acquisition of the 20,433-square-foot, mixed-use building, which contains two commercial storefronts, three upper-floor apartments and an adjoining parking lot. The building will include offices and workspace for commission staff, a visitor center, public restrooms, and a small pop-up gift shop. The apartments and a commercial tenant will remain in the building to provide ongoing revenue toward building upkeep and commission operations. The parking lot will serve the headquarters and will also facilitate hosting events and activities of the corridor’s anchor institutions and corridorwide events, including a weekly farmers’ market, food truck events, small concerts, and fundraising activities. A mural highlighting Black history is also planned to be commissioned on the eastside wall of the building, which faces Michigan Avenue.

MSAAHCC Executive Director Terry Alford said, “Buffalo has fought hard to hold on to and preserve its Black historical sites. Walking in the steps of those who traveled the Underground Railroad, rallied for freedom in the African American churches, and played their hearts out at the Colored Musicians Club is an experience that is critical to telling the full story of Buffalo. I thank Gov. Hochul and Empire State Development for supporting us in making sure everyone has the opportunity to experience our unique historic and cultural sites.”

The press release noted, “The MSAAHC includes four historic anchor institutions – the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the J. Edward Nash House Museum, the Colored Musicians Club, and the WUFO Black History Collective – that tell the stories of a neighborhood that became the heart of the African American experience in Buffalo. It’s an American story of advocacy, freedom and creativity. The time periods celebrated by assets in the Heritage Corridor include the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, and several cultural and artistic renaissance periods. Its festivals, cultural events and artistic programming draw residents, national and international tourists, scholars and artists, writers, storytellers, poets, dancers and actors to a thriving, community of historic urban scale.”

Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, chair of the MSAAHC Commission board, said, “There’s more to come! We ask the community to watch the growth as we continue to develop a heritage experience for Buffalo residents and national visitors.” 

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced nearly $10 million in investments and grant awards as part of the state’s ongoing efforts to address the needs of the east Buffalo community. The announcement, which follows the $50 million targeted investment announced in June 2022, includes expansion of the homeowner improvement program, additional mental health services, and development of a memorial for victims of the shooting at a Tops supermarket. In addition, also in June 2020, the governor announced a “Regional Revitalization Partnership” with local philanthropic organizations and municipalities in east Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester. Under this partnership, a combined $30 million ($24 million New York state and $6 million philanthropic/municipal) will be invested over the next five years in the MSAAHC to support capital improvements to realize components of the corridor strategic plan and to facilitate ongoing operations of the commission to advance its mission.

New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, “Under Terry Alford's leadership, the MSAAHCC has played a key role in amplifying African American voices, milestones and landmarks within our city's history, and this new headquarters and visitor center will deservedly elevate that mission in perpetuity. I’m thrilled to see this important space open its doors to our community, and look forward to continuing to collaborate with the commission on its meaningful work.”

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “Congratulations to the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission on its new home. This is the culmination of a vision that I had 20 years ago with establishing the corridor as a state heritage area for African American cultural tourism. Our history is our nation’s shared history – from arts and culture to advocating for human rights. It’s taken a while to get here, but you can begin to see the fruit of everyone’s labor with a number of construction projects underway at anchor institutions. The corridor commission’s new home will allow for better internal coordination, along with a well-deserved and proper home base for staff, tours and visitors. Thank you to all of our philanthropic partners, especially Gov. Hochul and Empire State Development, for acknowledging its significance and making this all possible.”

Congressman Brian Higgins said, “The Michigan Street Corridor played an important role in Buffalo and American history. This new visitor center is the latest in the Buffalo-Niagara Region’s continuing effort to grow tourism and the economy by sharing the stories that are uniquely ours.”

More About Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission

The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission’s focus is to integrate the African American cultural significance and impact on Buffalo and American history through public engagement and community education that encourage cultural appreciation, preservation, and community development. Learn more at www.michiganstreetbuffalo.org.

About Empire State Development

ESD is New York’s chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). Its mission is “to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the state and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies.” For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov or www.esd.ny.gov.

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