The 106-year-old Buffalo branch of the NAACP is "coming back home," branch president Rev. Mark Blue said Tuesday of the organization's imminent relocation to a rehabilitated 19th century building in the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.
"This is kind of like a dream come true," said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who grew up on the East Side never knowing about the history of the corridor, including the start of the Niagara Movement, the precursor to the NAACP, or the role of the Underground Railroad at the Michigan Street Baptist Church.
"To see it come to a fruition now is just overwhelmingly exciting," Peoples-Stokes said.
The nearly $6 million public-private project, headed by architect Steve Carmina and landlord Roger Trettel, includes what will be affordably priced apartments above the NAACP office. The apartments, to be known as the Nash Lofts, feature exposed brick, engineered hardwood floors, quartz countertops and stained plywood wainscoting.
The properties at 163 and 167 Broadway and 60 Nash St., at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Broadway, were purchased at auction for $410,000 in September 2015. Construction on the 40,000-square-foot complex of buildings began in 2017.
Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin praised the historical significance and livability of the project at a press preview Tuesday. The project received more than $1 million from Empire State Development, as well as contributions from the county and city.
"This is the home of where the NAACP started, which has been so important in the trajectory and the history of African Americans in this country," Benjamin said. "It will be able to continue this important work where there will be affordable homes for people and commercial redevelopment."
The project, being done in phases, was designed by the firm Carmina Wood Morris and will eventually offer 18 apartments and 11 parking spaces.
"This project never happens and this property would probably have been bulldozed probably this year without the state and federal historic tax credits," Carmina said.
The corridor also includes the Nash House, the Colored Musicians Club, the Michigan Street Baptist Church and the future home of WUFO radio.
Audrey Clark, the corridor's program director, said they're all in the planning process and moving forward as scheduled.
"It is exciting, and we do expect there will be construction in the other spaces soon," Clark said.
The church, which opened its doors in 1845, is expected to be addressed first, with $1.3 million in improvements that include repairs to the foundation, stabilizing roof trusses and an addition.
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He's also a former arts editor at The News.