The public got two looks Tuesday at the draft management plan for the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor that aims to commemorate black history in Buffalo.
“It’s a framework, a skeleton of what is to come in the corridor,” Karen Stanley Fleming, chairwoman of the Heritage Corridor commission, told about 25 people during a noon public hearing in City Hall hosted by Common Council Member Darius G. Pridgen of the Ellicott District. A second hearing followed at 6 p.m.
Historic time periods highlighted in the draft include the original settlement period, the 19th century influx, the abolitionist movement, the Civil War through the 1880s, 20th century influences, and the early civil rights era.
The draft focuses on three areas. The first is the corridor itself, which starts at East Ferry Street and Masten Avenue and continues south to Woodlawn Avenue, then to Michigan Avenue, and ends at Swan Street with several offshoots along the way. Those offshoots include Pine, Sycamore, William, Hickory and South Division streets.
The Corridor Contributing Area encompasses several blocks in and around Broadway and Michigan Avenue, Stanley Fleming said.
And the Thematic Heritage Area includes sites that are not in the corridor but are nevertheless significant.
“For example, Broderick Park is not Michigan or Broadway, but it is important to African-American history,” Stanley Fleming said.
Also included in the Thematic Heritage Area is the Buffalo Zoo, particularly Gates 3 and 4, which were designed by African-American architect John Brent, one of the first licensed architects in the state, Stanley Fleming said.
Brent was employed by City Hall when he designed the zoo gates in 1935, according to Everett Fly, one of the consultants on the project.
Brent Rollins – a Brent relative and Glenwood Avenue resident – talked about his childhood memories of the pioneering architect.
“On numerous occasions, we visited the zoo with Uncle John. To us, he was just Uncle John who worked at City Hall,” Rollins said.
Another component to the draft calls for taking advantage of educational opportunities in the Heritage Corridor. It seeks partnerships with primary and secondary schools, the zoo, and colleges and universities in the area. “We not only want to attract tourists, but we want to educate our own in Buffalo,” Stanley Fleming said.
The draft also identified state and national resources for funding opportunities, including the New York State Council on the Arts and the state Council on the Humanities.
After the public comment period, the Common Council will consider approval. Once the draft has completed the approval process, the panel’s next steps would be to establish a seven- to nine-member implementation committee as an interim management structure; to secure two-year operational funding; and to hire a corridor manager.
The next meeting of the corridor panel is set for 1 p.m. March 11 at the Larkin at Exchange Building.