The sign appropriately reads, "This Route Designated as Avenida San
After all, thousands of Spanish-speaking people from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other Latin American countries live in the Lower West Side community along Avenida San Juan -- also known as Niagara Street.
And a portion of it -- about 1.1 miles, between Niagara Square and Porter Avenue -- has been designated a Hispanic Heritage District by the City of Buffalo, which is also working on a rehabilitation project for that portion of Niagara.
The improvement plan includes new sidewalks, repaved streets, lighting, bike paths and welcome signs. A request for proposals could go out as soon as late fall, and by spring 2014 the rehabilitation work could begin, organizers said.
It's just one of a few projects putting a spotlight on Western New York's Hispanic community. Another is the new $200,000 memorial that pays tribute to Hispanic American military veterans, which opened last month. And a new Spanish-only cable television talk show, a first in Buffalo, debuted this spring.
"A lot of good, positive things are happening in the community," said Casimiro Rodriguez, president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York.
Of the 41,731 Hispanics in Erie County, 27,519 of them live in Buffalo and the number is growing, say officials and community leaders.
In July 2012, the Common Council approved a resolution creating the heritage district on Niagara Street. The designation is a recognition, though it does not allow for tax credits or any other incentives for home and business owners, said Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera.
Still, the city has plans for the district. In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, it is rehabbing Niagara Street. The plan includes pavement widening, repaving, new street lighting, traffic and pedestrian signals at Carolina and Georgia streets and at I-190 and Virginia Street, lanes for bicycles and pedestrians, traffic safety features and landscaping.
Also planned are "welcome signs, murals, new bus shelter, synchronized lighting," Rodriguez said.
The cost estimate for the improvement project is $4.7 million from Buffalo. An additional $4.5 million will come from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to improve the Niagara Street strip past Porter Avenue up to Ontario Street, Rodriguez said.
Last month, the heritage council and Holy Cross Catholic Church hosted a public meeting at the 7th Street church with officials from the city's departments of Public Works and Strategic Planning, the NFTA and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
Drawings, photos and project facts were on display as officials sought comments on the proposed plan from individuals, groups, officials and local agencies. Their thoughts, comments and suggestions from the public meeting were due back by late last month.
A draft design report is available at 501 City Hall for public review.
The attention lower Niagara Street is getting also has a lot to do with its status as the first main street that visitors run into when they arrive from Canada on the Peace Bridge, officials said.
"This area is very important for our community and very important for the City of Buffalo because it's the first impression of our city," Rodriguez said. "It's
Most Popular Stories
- NSA Defends Global Cellphone Tracking Legality
- Top Websites for U.S. Hispanics
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Saab Gets Back into the Game; U.S. Auto Sales Soar
- Apple Wants Samsung to Pay $22M for Patent Dispute Legal Bills
- Apple Activates Customer-Tracking iBeacon
- Starbucks Gets Grinchy; No Gingerbread Lattes for Tampa Customers
- A Biography of Jonathan Ive, Apple's Creative Chief
- Jobs Report Brings Cheer As Unemployment Drops to Five-year Low