There is a mounting urgency to address food insecurity on the city’s East Side, especially in the wake of the Tops massacre. From grassroots efforts to full fledge development initiatives, it is now clearer than ever that help is finally on the way.
One of the most recent developments to be announced is the advancement of a new market on High Street, between Locust and Mulberry Streets in the city’s Fruit Belt District. The project is that of St. John Community Development Corp., with financial support from Buffalo’s Black Billion. The new market – dedicated to fresh food access – will occupy the site of four vacant properties on High Street – 226, 232, 236, and 238. The combined corner lot is within eyesight of the Medical Campus.
The Development Corp. paid $142,000 to the City of Buffalo and $60,000 to Promised Land Church for the parcels.
“We have been working on acquiring these properties for many years with a specific vision,” said overseer /pastor Michael Chapman, who leads the St. John Baptist/Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church. “Now that all obstacles have been cleared and we are able to purchase the properties, our plan is to develop them into a High Street Market, an adjacent open air Farmers Market (in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County,) and a Youth Business Incubator for jobs in the community, (in collaboration with the Buffalo Public Schools.) Our mission is not only to become an economic stimulator for the East Side of Buffalo, but to cultivate this area’s fresh food access.”
Chapman also noted that the project will result in “Two Churches, Two Campuses, One Village” in the Michigan Street area, which is currently experiencing a groundswell of investments in its historic building stock.
The Buffalo’s Black Billion* initiative was established in 2002 by Pastor Chapman to serve as an economic engine for Buffalo’s East Side through construction, renovation, programming, and ministry. Dean Architects and Lamparelli Construction have been selected to manage the estimated $3 million project.
“This is the largest faith-based, God-driven African American Redevelopment project in the history of Buffalo,” stated St. John Baptist Trustee, Michael Norwood Sr. “This High Street Market project is a continuation of $250,550,000 of our $1 billion of development already underway in the Fruit Belt. It is also the springboard to our newest vision—a $1 billion plan to renovate and resurrect the Jefferson Avenue corridor from Cherry Street to East Ferry Street (‘Cherry to Ferry’), creating jobs in construction, small business health care, wellness, energy efficiency and entrepreneurial training. Bringing Jefferson Avenue back to one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares will require a lot of interaction and communication with current and past residents of the community. You can be assured the finished product will have a significant memorial to our ten beautiful Black neighbors whose lives were lost in that senseless hate crime on 5.14.”
Joining in the High Street Market announcement earlier this week were a number of elected officials led by Mayor Byron Brown, along with business and community leaders including Interim Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Tonja M. Williams, Senior VP/Regional Director, WNY Community Preservation Corp. Andrew D’Agostino, Principal of Dean Architects, Mark Dean, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County Diane Held, Program Coordinator of Buffalo Urban Leagues Project Hope, Melissa Spikes-Archer and Rev. Tim Brown, President, Baptist Minister’s Conference of Buffalo, New York and vicinity.
Immediately following the announcement of the project, Trustee Norwood and Reverend Dr. English led community leaders and residents in a peaceful remembrance at the Jefferson Avenue massacre site, where the names of those wounded and slain were read aloud, followed by 126 seconds of silence to mark the one month anniversary of the 5.14 racial hate crime.
The renewed commitment to unify Buffalo, and the nation, is more important than ever. Locally, there has been an outpouring of support, from food drives to rallies. People are coming together to address issues of disparity, violence, racism… and the resulting food deserts that prevent residents from accessing healthy food options that people in more affluent neighborhoods take for granted.
Further support of the Buffalo’s Black Billion High Street Market Development came from:
- California and Washington, D.C.
- James Farr, of the National Association of Black Journalists
- Reverend Dr. Que English, the newly appointed Director of The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the United States Department of Health and Human Services
“The Fruit Belt takes its name from the large number of orchards and vegetable gardens German immigrant settlers planted in this area in the 1800’s and the eventual naming of the streets that still remain,” Farr stated. “To imagine that this fallow property where we are standing today will once again be cultivated into land that provides fresh foods for the people of this community is an inspirational spark that will hopefully light the way to continued improvements for this area that is so deeply in need.”
“Fresh food access is not a new problem here in the Fruit Belt and surrounding East Side neighborhoods,” Dr. English stated. “The establishment of this High Street Market is a huge first step in addressing that problem. However, following the deadly massacre and loss of life on Jefferson Avenue one month ago today, we must be vigilant in also providing expanded mental health care resources, not only as part of the healing process from this tragedy, but as needed support for everyday life that takes its toll on people’s minds as well as their spirits.”
Current Buffalo’s Black Billion projects include: $57 million for the McCarley Gardens’ renovation; $160 million for the McCarley Gardens new build; $30 million for the St. John Towers Renovation; $1.8 million for the historic Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church Restoration; and $550,000 for the renovation of a building that will house ROAM/Spectrum Mental Health. St. John Baptist Trustee Michael Norwood Sr. defines the overall scope of the initiative.