Unfathomable delays have hampered The task of turning a stretch of Michigan Avenue, between South Division and East Ferry streets, into a corridor spotlighting the city’s African-American history requires focus and determination. So far those qualities have been sorely lacking.
It has been far too many years from concept to the still non-completion of the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor.
For years, there has been talk about turning Michigan Avenue – once called Michigan Street – into a tourist destination featuring the stop on the Underground Railroad at the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Colored Musicians Club and the Nash House Museum.
Those pieces of the historical puzzle are already in place but the thread linking everything in a cohesive manner offering cultural tourists a guided, or self-guided, walk through that story is missing.
Grants totaling more than half a million dollars in city, state and county money awarded to the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor Commission over the last five years were supposed to coordinate programs and tourism readiness at the three historic anchors and other locations, as described in a recent News article. There is little to show for the money.
Proposals for an archway at Michigan and Broadway, life-size cutouts of historical figures, banners and benches, period sidewalks and a new visitors center all sound wonderful. More impressive would be solid progress.
The disheartening inability to move forward stretches back a decade. A 2012 Buffalo News article noted “nearly five years of frustrating delays” in building a heritage corridor. And, yes, there is a lot of promise but the performance has been lacking.
Right now the focus seems to be on the project’s centerpiece – an archway at Michigan and Broadway that will celebrate history while also nodding to the struggles of the African-American community, including slavery and abolition. It should have been completed last summer, but community groups and city officials “still are meeting to discuss the detail of the metal archway,” as recently reported in The News.
Buffalo has a lot to offer in terms of history that is of particular importance to the African-American community: the Underground Railroad stop, Jazz Age contributions, the civil rights movement and religious and historical figures who lived here or visited frequently.
There has been plenty of community input over the years. In many instances, the input could be viewed as overwhelming.
There have been too many delays; this project must get done. It will enhance Buffalo’s renaissance while standing on its own as an integral piece of the nation’s history.creation of African-American corridor