Gov. Kathy Hochul recently broke ground on the new Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute at an event with Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York leadership, community stakeholders and elected officials in west Buffalo. The HHCI will feature a museum, 150-seat performing arts theater, event space, café, media center for radio or television broadcasts, and learning center. The three-story, 37,000-square-foot infill development on Niagara and Hudson streets will celebrate the region’s Hispanic arts and culture and serve as a central hub for the west Buffalo community.
The groundbreaking coincided with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, which goes from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, and the 13th anniversary of the founding of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York.
“This center, the first of its kind in upstate New York, will be a beacon for the west Buffalo community and region. This beautiful setting will allow us to showcase, celebrate and share the history, culture and contributions of Western New York’s Hispanic community,” Hochul said. “I thank Cas Rodriguez and the Hispanic Heritage Council for making history by bringing history to this corner of west Buffalo through their tireless efforts and commitment that ensures this cultural institute will be celebratory, educational and interactive for today’s generation and for generations to come. I couldn’t be prouder to be the governor that helped make today possible.”
Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY founder and President Casimiro D. Rodriguez said, “This is a monumental moment for our Hispanic community and the larger Western New York region which serves as a gateway to America. As we break ground on the Hispanic Heritage Culture Institute, the first in upstate New York, we build upon the strengths of the Hispanic and Latino community to foster and inspire awareness and appreciation of past, present and future contributions. This center will offer our Hispanic and Latino community the opportunity to preserve their history, tell their stories, and share their culture with others. The groundbreaking of the HHCI represents the collaboration and hard work of community leaders, government officials, donors, public and private organizations, and neighborhood groups. Due to Gov. Hochul and these dedicated individuals, this cultural magnet will be a center for a diverse community as well as a model for the country.”
The groundbreaking for the $30 million facility comes a little more than a year since Hochul announced a $5 million capital grant, through Empire State Development, to the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York, for the institute’s construction. The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC) awarded an additional $725,000 capital grant through round 11 of the council awards in 2021. The New York Power Authority is also providing a $300,000 funding award to the HHCI through its Western New York Power Proceeds program, which is made possible through net earnings resulting from the sale of unused hydropower generated at the Power Authority’s Niagara Power Project.
Hochul’s team said, “Buffalo’s Hispanic population is about 45,000 of the region’s 75,000 total, representing nearly two-dozen Latin American countries and unique cultures. Construction of the HHCI, which will focus on Hispanic arts, culture and history, is expected to be completed in about 18 months.
“The new institute’s gallery will feature works by local and national artists, in addition to hosting other productions, panels and a speaker series. The theater will also be available for rent as a multifunction assembly space for local schools, churches and other clubs or organizations.
“A media center will be designed to house a radio or television station, as well as equipment to host online podcasts. This will help provide real-world learning opportunities for local students interested in careers in broadcasting and journalism.
“To further meet students’ cultural and academic needs, the HHCI will host the Teacher Leadership Academy while also offering other academic and workforce development programs such as adult English as a second language classes, Spanish classes, arts programming, a Saturday Academy, and entrepreneurships and apprenticeship programs. In addition, the cultural center’s guitar initiative will provide free music instruction to children ages 12 to 17.
In addition to the estimated 25,000 square-feet dedicated to the new cultural institute, the HHCI will make 10,446 square-feet available for lease to various small tenants to provide supplemental revenues from rents and the rest set aside for community space.”
New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “The Niagara Power Project is a cornerstone of economic development in Western New York and the Power Authority, in its role as a good neighbor in the region, is providing $300,000 in funding to the Hispanic Heritage Council’s cultural and educational center on Buffalo’s westside. Once complete, the center will be a significant addition to Buffalo’s rich culture and tourism appeal.”
Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez said, “As the Latino population in New York state continues to grow, we recognize the importance of supporting a community that is making the difference in our state and our country’s economic and social landscape. The Hispanic Heritage Council and its president, Casimiro Rodriguez, are making history in west Buffalo through their tireless efforts and commitment to ensuring that the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute will be a celebratory, educational and interactive center for generations to come.”
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “I thank Gov. Kathy Hochul, for her continued dedication to our city. Cultural Institutions are important to our diverse, inclusive, and world-class city. I’m proud of the work Casimiro Rodriguez and his board at the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York have done to move this project forward. The city is proud to contribute $1million to this project. The strategic allocation of these funds reflects my administration’s continued commitment and dedication to the inclusive and equitable development of neighborhoods throughout our city.”