(WIVB) – The largest Hispanic cultural center in upstate New York is now a step closer to reality after state lawmakers came to Buffalo to get the project off the drawing board.

The eyes of New York were focused squarely on Buffalo’s Hispanic community, as the speaker of the state assembly and the chairwoman of the assembly’s Puerto Rican-Hispanic task force dropped in on the city’s West Side to help present a huge check for Buffalo’s future Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute.

Western New York’s top elected officials gathered at the site of the $10 million project that has been in the planning stages for years.

The cultural institute’s planning committee revealed their vision for the 33,000 sq. ft. multi-use building two years ago – but the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold.

Plans call for a museum, a 150-seat theatre, classrooms, and a media production facility.

West Side assemblyman Jon Rivera presented the giant check from the state for $2.5 million -but there was more.

“We are excited to announce that this is the wrong number actually, that it is not $2.5 million – it is actually $3.8 million applause,” Rivera told the crowd.

“We need a place we can come together to celebrate our culture, to celebrate our history, to celebrate our ancestors, but also inspire our generations to go forward to achieve new heights,” said Esmeralda Sierra of the Hispanic Heritage Council.

“A cause that is special to the heart of this Hispanic community, here in our great City of Buffalo,” said Casimiro Rodgriguez, Cultural Institute chairman. “It is to build the first of its kind in upstate New York, Hispanic Cultural Heritage Institute.”

Organizers say the state grant now gets the project past halfway to the $10 million needed to get the project off the drawing board, and shovels in the ground.

Mayor Byron Brown announced the city is providing a grant for the Hispanic Cultural Institute.

Plans now call for a groundbreaking sometime in 2023, and open the new facility the following year.