Colored Musicians Club getting $3M expansion to attract tourists to Black Buffalo district

The club was founded in 1918 and remains one of the only African American musicians' clubs in the country

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A Black musicians’ club in Buffalo, New York, where icons from Louis Armstrong to Ella Fitzgerald have taken the stage, is set to receive a multi-million dollar makeover that will crescendo the historic center to the next level.

The Colored Musicians Club & Museum held a groundbreaking on Wednesday to undergo a $2.95 million renovation project that includes an expansion of performance space. The project aims to attract visitors to the African American Heritage Corridor in the city’s East Side, a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Local officials joined Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado and Mayor Byron W. Brown at the non-profit club, founded in 1918 at the corner of Broadway and Michigan Avenue, for the ceremony, The Buffalo News reported.

Renderings show plans for a $2.95 million expansion project of the Colored Musicians Club designed to increase tourism and visitation to the African American Heritage Corridor in Buffalo, New York. (Credit: Stieglitz Snyder Architecture)

Gov. Kathy Hochul recognized the project as part of a new chapter.

“By fostering the expansion and preservation of historic assets along the Michigan Street Corridor, we are celebrating the rich histories of Black New Yorkers and honoring their important contributions in Buffalo, our state, and our nation,” she said in a statement.

“This is not just an investment in East Buffalo, but an investment in the Black people and the Black culture that runs so deep in this part of Buffalo,” Delgado added.

According to its website, the Colored Musicians Club is the country’s last remaining Black club, promoting research and preserving jazz in Buffalo. It was designated a historical preservation site in 1999.

In addition to Armstrong and Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Nat “King Cole are among the iconic artists who performed at the club.

Mayor Brown praised efforts to preserve the club and recognized Hochul, Delgado and local officials who had a hand in the undertaking. 

Renderings show plans for a $2.95 million expansion project of the Colored Musicians Club designed to increase tourism and visitation to the African American Heritage Corridor in Buffalo, New York. (Credit: Stieglitz Snyder Architecture)

“I want to thank them for hitting the ground running and making sure that the needs of this community and this great part of our city are protected and preserved,” Brown said, per The News. 

The improvements to the building are made possible by a $2 million grant from the Empire State Development’s $65 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, per the report. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz reportedly provided a $925,000 grant.

The project includes an overhaul of the building’s exterior and a newly-designed entrance that will bring it up to code with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“By making this significant investment we are making it clear that Black history is important, Buffalo’s history is important, and jazz is a force for telling that story and a powerful way to provide strength and hope to our people,” said George Scott, former director of the Colored Musicians Club, according to Buffalo Rising.

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