Design Question: How do we redefine the role of this neighborhood bookstore in the digital age, and as designers, how do we preserve the specific cultural history of commercial spaces under the threat of market change?

January 2016 – May 2016

More than a bookstore, Community Book Center on Bayou Road is a local gathering place for individuals, groups and institutions, serving as a multipurpose venue, performance space, conference center, pop up restaurant and boutique.  With a focus on books written by and about the African diaspora and a deep commitment to providing culturally competent resources for educators, students, and families, Community Books is a valuable part of New Orleans literary landscape.  Like other small independent bookstores, however, Community Books is vulnerable to factors far beyond founder and owner, Vera Warren’s, control.


Changes in the book industry, the reworking of New Orleans educational system, and rapidly shifting populations of the neighborhood around Community Books have all combined to make operating an ongoing struggle.  In her application for design services through Tulane City Center, Vera Warren wrote, “as a substitute teacher I discovered there was a lack of books that positively reflected and accurately presented the culture and contribution of people of color. Therefore I took $300 of my personal savings and made an investment of a lifetime… literally.”


This semester, Tulane City Center, the Community Design Center of the Tulane School of Architecture, is working with the staff and clients of Community Books to design and build a new interior for the store.  A class of 14 students, led by TSA Faculty and TCC staff member Emilie Taylor Welty, will completely overhaul the store over the course of 17 weeks.  Our goal is to create a space that reflects Community Books identity as an African-American centered educational home, while adapting to be more accessible for new families and visitors coming to this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.


This design/build semester is the third project for Tulane City Center along Bayou Road.  Our current partnership with Community Books builds on work with Broad Community Connections to create a guide to Bayou Road and a partnership with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority for the Façade Renew program, which offers design and refurbishment assistance to businesses along several of New Orleans historic commercial corridors.  These small interventions combine to strengthen neighborhood anchors and to support Bayou Road’s community of African-American women owned businesses.  

Project Leads

Emilie Taylor Welty


TCC Support
Sue Mobley



Community Book Center


Special thanks to

Johnson Controls, Inc
Verbena Group

Tulane’s Center for Public Service

Project Team

Gabby Black

Chistophe Blanchard

Jordan Conway

Katarina Dvorak

Kristen Hill

Maggie Lloyd

Matt Raybon

Cassidy Self

Fernanda Silva

Jill Thompson

Ben Tulman

Evan Wagner

Alex Walker

Brian Webber