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Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute receives $250,000 grant from National Grid

A rendering of the planned Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute at Niagara and Hudson streets.

Donations are coming in for the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York’s proposed cultural institute on Buffalo’s West Side. The council, on Tuesday, announced a $250,000 economic development grant from National Grid to help cover engineering and design costs for the $10 million project.

“The new Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute (HHCI) will enrich the community as a hub for arts, culture, research, education and wellness, all rooted in Hispanic culture,” said National Grid regional director Ken Kujawa, in a statement.

“As part of a busy commercial corridor on Buffalo’s West Side, the facility will be the first of its kind in upstate New York. National Grid is proud to be part of this transformative project in Buffalo’s Hispanic Heritage District.”

The council plans to build the three-story institute at the corner of Niagara and Hudson streets. The 33,000 square-foot building will host educational programs, events, and cultural activities. It will include a museum, theater, media center and more.

Dinorah Santos of the council’s capital campaign committee said the vision for the institute is to provide a central location and programming for the entire Buffalo community to learn about and celebrate Hispanic heritage.

"We want our community to celebrate this rich Hispanic culture, especially with just how divided we are right now. I think this is the perfect time for an institute like this," Santos said.

The building, designed by Stieglitz Snyder Architecture, will feature solar panels as part of its energy-efficient design.

The council has also announced restauranteur and hotelier Manny Lezama, formerly of Rich Products, as chairperson of the capital campaign. Lezama was born in Mexico City and is the former general manager of restaurant operations at Rich Products.

"We have to invest money in our youth. We have to invest money in continuing our culture [and] our heritage, things that have survived in our relatives and family members," Lezama said.

Lezama said he is confident the campaign will reach its goal and that the cultural institute won’t just benefit Western New Yorkers of Hispanic heritage.

"Every penny counts and every member of the City of Buffalo counts," he said. "At the end of the day, this is the living room of our home and everybody is welcome."

More information on the institute is available here.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.