The International Civil Rights Center and Museum at 134 S. Elm St. is planning to buy the building next door, expand its offerings and programs, and applying to become a World Heritage Site – an exclusive landmark designation from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

That honor has only been given to 24 other sites in the US, including Grand Canyon National Park, the Statue of Liberty and Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, a co-founder of the museum established in the famed Woolworth’s building in downtown Greensboro, said that the museum intends to purchase the former First Citizen’s building next door and expand into it.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on Friday, March 18 to give $2 million from Guilford County to the museum for the expansion plans.  The board is meeting as part of the commissioners two-day annual retreat.

Alston also said that, based on multiple discussions he’s had, he’s optimistic that state lawmakers will approve the plan and also help fund it.

Alston, a staunch Democrat, noted  that Republican State Rep. Jon Hardister was backing the move.

“That shows you it’s a bipartisan effort,” Alston said.

Alston said he isn’t going to participate in the vote since he is one of the  museum’s founders.  He added that he even planned to leave the room in the Bur-Mil Clubhouse when the discussion takes place.

Alston said the museum, with the additional space, would offer expanded exhibits and more events.

He said the expansion was a necessary part of being designated as a World Heritage Site and said the added recognition would mean more downtown activity and be a big boost for tourism for the county.

World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO after a rigorous application and approval process for sites denoted as having cultural, historical or scientific significance as well as meeting many other requirements.