Empire State Development announces next phase of construction at Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station

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New York Construction Report staff writer

Empire State Development (ESD) has started phase two of construction at the historic Michigan Street Baptist Church in Buffalo. Phase one included a stabilization effort of critical structural components of the church, funded through grants from ESD and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), along with other state and federal sources.

Phase two, expected to cost $2.2 million, includes a two-story addition to further ensure the building’s structural integrity and address safety and programming needs at the church, while also providing better access for disabled visitors.

The Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, a not-for-profit organization that owns the church, received a portion of ESD’s $65 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund that is helping boost tourism and visitation to Buffalo’s historic Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. ESD is collaborating with a consortium of philanthropic partners known as “East Side Avenues”, managed by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute.

The second phase of construction includes an addition to the north side of the Michigan Street Baptist Church, which is designed to mirror a typical structure that would have existed in the neighborhood. It will provide accessibility to the upper and lower levels of the church, as well as accessible restrooms.

Brick and stone veneer will be used as finish materials. Windows will have segmental arch brick headers and precast sills. The porch railing system is constructed with turned pickets and larger square newels and intermediate posts. The stair of the porch serves a first-floor front door, typical of the raised stoop buildings that were formerly in the neighborhood. Handicapped access is provided at the rear of the addition, at a split level.

ESD is providing a $2,211,500 grant for the second phase of the project.

“It has been a privilege to witness the restoration and development of a church built in 1849 by freedom seekers into a local and national historic site,” said Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, chair of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.

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