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Churches key to Michigan Avenue conversion

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

This year, some of the lights along Michigan Avenue in downtown Buffalo are Christmas lights, as the historic street continues its conversion into a neighborhood.

The lit Christmas tree and the lights on a fence outside the historic Michigan Street Baptist Church are part of an evolution, as the East Side church and the burgeoning downtown start to come together. Sunday night, there was gospel music and the tree lighting.

"It's absolutely huge. Because when you think of the fact that people need hope," said Karen Stanley Fleming, chair of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission.

"People need to have an anchor, a beacon of light in the community. That's exactly what the Christmas tree does for this community. We envision that we're not just about the history but we're also about revitalizing today's community. So, we think this is a great step."

Stanley Fleming says Michigan Avenue is a street of churches, ten of them. She says those churches are attracting new members from the burgeoning downtown housing market and suburbanites and she sees tourism opportunities in those churches, with the tree marking perhaps the most historic church building.

City Hall is contributing $100,000 into promoting the corridor.