BUFFALO, N.Y. – Major investment is coming to Buffalo’s African American Heritage Corridor on Michigan.
The structure at 509 Michigan next to the Michigan Street Baptist Church doesn’t look like much right now.
But it’s been saved from demolition, and Vision Multi Media Group, which owns WUFO radio, just won the RFP to renovate and move across the street into 509, which will become its new home, and the $2 million renovation plan for the Colored Musicians Club with preserve the past and literally bridge it with the future.
The 509 Michigan project, which breaks ground later this year, will twin the building and triple the square footage, while honoring what the 100-year-old building once looked like.
The city selected Vision Multi Media Group to be its new tenant.
“You have the church, you have the Nash house, you have the Michigan Baptist Church, you have the Colored Musicians Club and then WUFO, so all of us being historical, we could do tours together,” Sheila Brown, owner of Vision, said.
The Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Corridor Commission says the move preserves not only 509 Michigan but also the history that the radio station chronicles.
“If you don’t know, one of the great features of the WUFO radio family is the black radio history collective, which spans over at least six decades,” Terry Alford said at Thursday’s announcement.
Across the street, work on the Historic Colored Musicians Club is underway.
The second floor stage area will be all new, with first-rate sound and lighting, and a second modern building will contrast the historic one.
“It’s a more modern, sleek look, full of glass and beautiful angles with a connecting, second floor glass-enclosed bridge connecting the new building with our historic building,” said Allita Dockery of the Colored Musicians Club Board of Directors.
And the upgrades will help keep jazz going.
“For 80 years, we’ve had a jam session on Sunday nights, and for 80 years without a break until Covid, and we intend to continue that because what that did is it attracted musicians to Buffalo,” said Danny Williams, president of the Board of Directors of the Colored Musicians Club. “That’s how we got Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington. And the idea is we want to continue that so when people think of jazz, they think of Buffalo, New York.
Williams hopes the investment will also preserve the history beyond the music that’s told in these walls: The Colored Musicians Union, formed in 1917, helped African Americans and women of color break the glass ceilings of their time because the union afforded them access to banking and life insurance.
“Not only were these folks great musicians, but these were people who fought to be part of the American Dream,” Williams said.
Work gets underway for both projects this year with expected completion dates in 2022.
Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.