When it comes to the cultural prosperity of lower Niagara Street, there is one guy who should be awarded a gold medal. His name is Casimiro “Cas” D. Rodriguez, and he’s president of the Hispanic Heritage Council. Over the past couple of years, Cas has been instrumental in helping to secure a number of placemaking assets for the street, including wayfinding materials, garitas, a clock, and numerous other informational and culturally significant installations (see here).
Now, an even more monumental project has been announced that would take the work of the Hispanic Heritage Council to an entirely different level. A new multi-faceted cultural institute has been proposed for the corner of Niagara and Hudson streets, where an empty lot currently sits. The $10 million museum, designed by Stieglitz Snyder Architecture, would be considered a cultural institute, and would feature a theater, as well as amenities for TV and radio.
According to Cas, this new facility will tackle a lot of the needs of the Hispanic community, by providing a museum space along with a home for the “wandering” Raíces Theatre Company – a cultural institution that is integral to telling the stories of the Hispanic people and the community at large. There will be a Media Center with high-tech radio and TV, which will help to broadcast important messages to the Hispanic population, and other immigrants that don’t have a voice. Cas says that the hunt is on for a radio frequency “for our people”. The institute will be a home for experiential learning labs, and culturally responsive education. There will be an Activities Hall that will support the theater and the rest of the cultural programming – it will be a consolidated home for numerous aspects of the Hispanic community that currently don’t have a place to reside. It will be a place of learning and cultural preservation that will be placed on a pedestal along with other local cultural institutions such as the Albright-Knox and The Museum of History, says Cas. There will also be a café and gift shop.”
“We have signed a contract for the land,” Cas tells me. “We have a designated development agreement with the City of Buffalo, and right to the land acquisition. We will be working with other cultural and learning institutions, and counting on the City, State, Federal, foundations and businesses to drive the capital campaign, which will be announced this weekend. Our goal is to put a shovel in the ground by next spring, with a ribbon cutting in 2021. This project is for the Hispanic community – our time is now! We are building this upon the legacy of our forefathers, and we are building this for our kids, who are the leaders of tomorrow.”