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Urban Arts Center high on mayor's list in trip to D.C.

Mayor Byron W. Brown "hit the ground running" Tuesday as he unveiled the city's wish list for the congressional delegation, according to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The mayor requested $500,000 to jump-start the Buffalo Urban Arts Center, which would house a number of African-American cultural institutions, such as the Langston Hughes Institute and the Buffalo Inner City Ballet.

"This funding request would help with the development of a business plan and predesign concept [for the urban arts center], which would be located in the Michigan Avenue Cultural Corridor," said Brown, during his presentation for the state's two senators and Erie County's three House members.

Clinton, D-N.Y., praised him for his "strong sense of Buffalo's federal priorities."

"Buffalo is an interesting microcosm of the problems that face the nation -- trade, immigration reform, homeland and border security, the future of the manufacturing base and the need to create jobs and promote economic development," Clinton said.

"I was glad to see that the mayor is focusing his economic development efforts on Buffalo's strengths: the investment in its waterfront on the outer harbor, the highly educated work force, furthering the new investments we have already made in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and promoting the strength of the city's arts and architectural backbone," she added.

Brown began his first trip to the nation's capital as mayor with a session with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

On the big ticket items, Brown signaled his top priority is opening Main Street to automotive traffic. He ended it with a meeting with Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, a member of the House Republican leadership.

In an interview, Brown said his downtown development plan will work whether or not the Bass Pro project becomes a reality.

"I believe Bass Pro will come to fruition, and I want it to," said the mayor, who added that the city's master plan prepared by architect Stanton Echstut will attract investment even without Bass Pro.

The mayor's request for federal aid, like that of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, omits mention of the stalled $115 million courthouse for Niagara Square.

Andrew Rudnick, partnership president, said the courthouse was not included "because it has already been authorized by Congress."

Nevertheless, Rudnick said, "we will strongly support funding for it when we meet with the delegation today."

Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, said the mayor strongly supports the courthouse, but believes it may have been stalled because of problems within the Western New York delegation.

Higgins predicted Brown "will become more aggressive" on the courthouse front.

But the congressman said he "can't believe that the delegation allowed this project to be stalled in past years, when funding was approved for courthouses in California and Texas."

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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