Sometimes it’s helpful to think small. Students in the Tulane School of Architecture’s UrbanBuild program did just that when they designed and built a number of movable, 14-foot structures for a community market space in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans.
Each weekend, innovative "pods" designed and built by UrbanBuild students are filled with vendors selling food, apparel, and arts and crafts. (Photograph from Harmony Neighborhood Development)
The project is something of a departure for UrbanBuild. “We typically build a house in an underprivileged community,” says program director Byron Mouton.
The challenge for this project, says Mouton, was how to create a small-scale retail environment to spark commercial development in the LaSalle Street Corridor for the Harmony Neighborhood Development.
“The goal for the market is to create a low-cost, high-traffic retail location for Central City–owned businesses,” says Una Anderson, executive director of the Harmony Neighborhood Development.
The market had its grand opening in July and is open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Saturday. "It's been exciting to see the Market on LaSalle pop up and grow into an event each weekend,” says Anderson. “This market has brought a lot of energy to the corner of Toledano and LaSalle and it's provided an infrastructure for the Central City community to expand their businesses."
The movable units put “the bottom rungs on the business-developer ladder,” says Anderson.
Each of the pods is built upon a farm trailer, says Mouton, which can allow a retail site to be configured for different events. “The goal is to have these little carts stay on site a while, but one day they may be disbursed along the LaSalle Corridor, to be seeds for future development,” he says.
Anderson says she hopes the weekend market will lead to a full revival of the commercial corridor.
"We have loved working with Byron and the UrbanBuild classes," says Anderson. "The students' commitment to thoughtful design and construction have created a unique solution to a formerly blighted lot. This partnership has allowed us to create a model of revitalization we hope can be replicated by others in the future."