A city-owned building that has been empty for nearly a decade could become a repository for local African-American history if City Council votes to lease the facility to a local organization.
The African American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio held its first event in October in hopes of attracting documents, artifacts, and other materials chronicling the lives of blacks in the area.
Legislation has been introduced in council that will offer the building at the corner of Upton Avenue and Cone Street, formerly used by the city's parks, recreation, and forestry department, to the organization for its headquarters.
The organization would pay $500 a year for three years. City officials said the legacy project also would be responsible for paying the utilities.
Council could consider the legislation for passage as early as its next meeting Tuesday.
Councilman Wilma Brown said the building has been vacant for as long as eight years.
"We've done some things to it, but it's just sitting there," she said. "I can't think of a better use for it. We have nowhere in the city where you can display [African-American] heritage, and we have a lot of heritage."
Ms. Brown said the organization will need a bigger facility, so the use of the building is temporary.
Robert Smith, founder of the African American Legacy Project, said he has been receiving calls from people wanting to donate materials. He said the building would give the organization and the community a central location for donations and research.
"It's a natural next step for us," Mr. Smith said. "It gives us a place where people can see us and visit us. We found that bringing people together in small groups is a good way to get additional information, and this will allow us to do that."
Mr. Smith said board members have individually donated money for the project. He said the organization is planning a luncheon on its anniversary to announce plans to incorporate the community into its project.
Ms. Brown said the project could be the start of a long-awaited African-American museum. Several ill-fated attempts at starting a museum in Toledo have left many blacks skeptical, Mr. Smith said.
He said his organization is only collecting and archiving information. "[An African-American museum] is not even on our radar," he said. "We know the difficulty in starting and maintaining a museum. What we are doing is collecting and documenting history. We want to deliver the African-Americans experience here not only to the African-American community, but to the community in general."
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