New York State Investments in the African American Heritage Corridor Will Continue to Reinvigorate East Buffalo
Complements Governor's Historic $50 Million Targeted Investments in East Buffalo
Renderings Available Here
(August 24, 2022) Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the Colored Musicians Club has begun an expansion and renovations that will allow for increased tourism and visitation to Buffalo's African American Heritage Corridor. Founded in 1918, the CMC is the only remaining African American musicians' club of its kind in the U.S. It has hosted performances by such notable artists as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Nat "King" Cole, Miles Davis and Cab Calloway.
"This groundbreaking marks the start of a new chapter at the Colored Musicians Club and represents our deep, ongoing commitment to uplifting the East Buffalo community," Governor Hochul said. "By fostering the expansion and preservation of historic assets along the Michigan Street Corridor, we are celebrating the rich histories of Black New Yorkers and honoring their important contributions in Buffalo, our state, and our nation."
"This is not just an investment in East Buffalo, but an investment in the Black people and the Black culture that runs so deep in this part of Buffalo," said Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. "The renovation and expansion of the Colored Musicians Club, in addition to other previously announced investments being made in East Buffalo, will increase tourism along Buffalo's historic Michigan Street Corridor, which is rich in African American culture and history."
CMC's $2.95 million expansion is the latest example of the Governor's increased efforts to attract visitors to Buffalo's East Side. The not-for-profit club will make critical improvements through the help of a $2 million a grant from Empire State Development's (ESD) $65 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund. These upgrades will spark increased tourism and visitation to Buffalo's historic Michigan Street African American Corridor. DASNY also provided $350,000 in funding for the project.
The CMC project includes the design and construction of a new building entrance at 145 Broadway Street that will be ADA-compliant and include increased storage space for the CMC; restoration of the building's façade and renovations and expansion of the historic performance space; updated fire safety and code issues; and the completion of related site work and repaving and streetscape improvements.
Empire State Development Commissioner and President & CEO Hope Knight said, "Buffalo is rapidly emerging as a top tourism destination. While some locations like the waterfront are booming, we also need to propel the Buffalo's African American community upward by capitalizing on its significant historic assets and incredible potential for growth. Renovations to the African American Heritage Corridor's anchor institutions will help draw new visitors to this emerging neighborhood to celebrate its history, music and cultural diversity. I applaud Governor Hochul for her continued efforts to do more to assist East Buffalo, which has lagged behind the rest of the City during Buffalo's revitalization."
Renovation work is also well underway on two other projects that anchor the African American Heritage Corridor: the Michigan Street Baptist Church and the Nash House.
New York State is supporting the renovation projects in partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition and the Nash House Museum, two nonprofit organizations which work to preserve and promote the heritage of the Church and the Nash House.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "The whole story of New York State is not complete without the stories found in Buffalo's African American Heritage Corridor. New York State Parks is grateful to Governor Hochul for her support of these important projects and State Parks is honored to be a partner in them."
State Senator Tim Kennedy said, "The Colored Musicians Club has been an anchor in Buffalo's historic Michigan Street African American Corridor for decades, and this nearly $3 million expansion will not only attract new tourism to the Queen City, but it will do something even bigger: it will tell a story. The story of those who shaped our city through grit, heart, and talent, and who helped to write Buffalo's Black history. It's just one of the many investments New York State is making to bring the true vision of Terry Alford, Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, and the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor to life."
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said, "Congratulations to the Colored Musicians Club on breaking ground for their expansion. I am proud to have been able to provide seed money to kickoff fundraising. This project is over a decade in the making and will improve accessibility for all visitors to view the Club, its exhibits and its history of legendary jazz performers. I thank Governor Hochul and Empire State Development for their support and also commend the Club's leadership for their tireless commitment to seeing this project through."
George Scott, Colored Musicians Club Former Director, said, "We want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul for investing in the future of the Colored Musicians Club. The renovation will benefit the entire Michigan Street Corridor by drawing more visitors to experience the music, history, food and unique cultural attractions of the East Side. By making this significant investment we are making it clear that Black history is important, Buffalo's history is important, and jazz is a force for telling that story and a powerful way to provide strength and hope to our people."
Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition Chair said, "The Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition is extremely grateful for the support of Empire State Development, New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Because of the community activism, in particular Bishop Henderson, the BNFSC is on the cusp of saving the church for the next 200 years. I am personally so proud to be a part of the Buffalo community and this important work."
Rachel Henderson, Bishop Henderson's daughter, said, "By preserving the knowledge of our past, we garner the true possibilities of our future. As we continue to learn more about the history of our ancestors, we build a much brighter and exponentially more progressive world. As the daughter of Bishop William Henderson and Vice Chair of the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, I am so grateful to see his work regarding this beautiful monument continuing."
Improvements to the African American Heritage Corridor include:
· The $1.3 million Michigan Street Baptist Church project will help ensure the building's structural integrity and address safety issues at the church, while also providing better access for disabled visitors. The project includes foundation repairs and roof reinforcement, plus accessibility renovations. The Michigan Street Baptist Church was built by African Americans in 1845 and was the last stop on the Underground Railroad for freedom seekers escaping to Canada before the Civil War. It's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.
· The Nash House received $172,000 in funding from ESD and is undergoing weatherization improvements and upgrades to the museum exhibits. The Nash House was once the home of Reverend J. Edward Nash Sr., pastor of the Michigan Street Baptist Church through the 1950s and renowned Buffalo civil rights leader. It is currently owned by the not-for-profit Michigan Street Preservation Corporation and has been operating as a museum since 2007.
· The WUFO Radio Station & Black History Collective received a $1 million grant for a significant restoration and expansion project. The Collective is the only African American owned radio station in Western New York and is the anchor tenant for 509 Michigan Street, a city-owned a century-old two-story structure located on a key site immediately south of the Michigan Street Baptist Church.
· The NAACP's nearly $6 million public-private Nash Lofts project is also being funded in part by ESD under the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund. The NAACP returned to the African American Heritage Corridor last year, and its new location includes new NAACP offices, affordably priced apartments, and other street-level retail space. A tenant for a first-floor retail space will soon be announced.
· The Freedom Wall and area surrounding the historic mural will undergo improvements through a $366,000 award allocated to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. The funding will be used to reconstruct the area between the concrete wall and street curbing and install LED lighting to accent the wall portraits. The Freedom Wall celebrates African Americans' historic and ongoing work for political and social equality.
All of these projects will be tied together with a narrower and landscaped Michigan Avenue to slow traffic, and improved street lighting to make the blocks-long district more pedestrian-friendly.
These projects are intended to create a cohesive tourist destination around the concentration of historic assets between William Street and Broadway. Planning efforts include strategies to market and support improvements of these assets. Capital investments such as upgrades to historic buildings, building expansions, ADA and safety compliance, streetscape improvements, community gathering spaces and other critical amenities will improve the visitor experience and better connect historic assets to each other and downtown Buffalo. This project will create a unified tourist destination that will tell the story of Buffalo's contribution to African American history while attracting new visitors from the region.
Terry Alford, Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission said, "On behalf of the board members that comprise our Heritage Corridor Commission, as well as those community stakeholders and residents that have always supported the corridor, I would like to thank our Governor and Empire State Development for its continued investment in the progressive improvement of the corridor. Due to their commitment in supporting the stabilization and expansion of two of our more recognized cultural anchors, they have helped secure the sustainability of these iconic edifices for many generations to come, which will enhance not only the corridor but also our city as an exciting and vibrant heritage destination."
Deputy Erie County Executive Maria R. Whyte said, "The Colored Musicians Club is an historic and irreplaceable part of our community and our heritage and this investment by Governor Hochul will update and maintain it far into the future. Erie County is joining this effort with an allocation of $925,000 for capital improvements at the Club to assist in updating this iconic attraction. Renovating and restoring treasures such as the CMC reaffirms our commitment to preserving our past and brings more visitors to the historic Michigan Street African American Corridor to learn more about it."
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "Music plays an important role in Buffalo's African American history and as one of our city's most important destinations, the home of the Colored Musicians Club should boldly reflect that. I thank Governor Hochul and Empire State Development for supporting this expansion and renovation project that will draw more visitors to Buffalo's African American Heritage Corridor to enjoy our Black history, music, and culture. This $2.95 million expansion complements the City's significant investment in this East Buffalo neighborhood and will benefit our community for many generations to come."
Buffalo Council President Darius Pridgen said, "I am excited to learn of the start of stabilization work on the roof and foundation of the Michigan Street Baptist Church. As Ellicott District Councilmember, I have been an advocate to any investment into the African American Heritage Corridor as it preserves our history in Buffalo and Western New York. This is another step in making the Corridor a travel destination in Western New York. I thank Governor Hochul for her leadership and my colleagues in government for their continuing support."
Find more information about the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor here.