The area surrounding Broadway and Michigan Avenue is historic for Buffalo's African-American community because of ties with the Underground Railroad and the founding of the NAACP. However, an old building at that corner is the future.
For a generation, the building has had the standard look of so many old city buildings, looking as if the years have been too much for the brick. Developers have been stabilizing the structure to make way for converting the old Dellenbaugh Block into Nash Lofts, named for the Rev. J. Edward Nash, who pastored Michigan Street Baptist Church and lived next door.
Rebuilt, Nash Lofts will house 18 apartments, office space, indoor parking and a restaurant. At a symbolic groundbreaking Thursday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said it is special because of its location in the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.
"This more than $5 million renovation of this complex of buildings into Nash House is a significant step forward for the Michigan Street African-American Corridor," Brown said.
The building also will house the offices of the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP, a national organization founded on the block in Rev. Nash's church. Rev. Mark Blue, president of the Buffalo NAACP, said the connection is crucial.
"We need to make sure that we let the history of that continue to go forward and with us being here, where this old drug store was," Blue said. "I used to ride my bike around here all the time. Little Harlem was right here on this area over here and the Colored Musicians, it was very good as a young person to see African-Americans doing something, having ownership."
Eight investors, led by architect Roger Trettel and architect Steve Carmina, are rebuilding structures dating as far back as 1820 in the complex. The lofts will use a combination of public and private funding.
"Think about all of the historic buildings, this magnificent architecture that we have in this city that years ago was boarded up and abandoned, that today has been re-purposed and rehabilitated into housing projects like the one we are seeing today," said Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt. "That's a state program that is making a difference not only here in Buffalo but throughout the entire Upstate region."