Circle Foods celebrates its grand re-opening
Circle Food Store, a historic locally owned grocery in New Orleans’ 7th Ward has re-opened as the community’s beloved hub and fresh food market. Over the past four years a team of Tulane School of Architecture students and alumni have been involved in the store’s extensive comeback efforts.
First opened in 1938 as the city’s first African American owned grocery store, Hurricane Katrina caused significant flooding to the historic building. The Tulane City Center worked with store owner Dwayne Boudreaux and the local community on a vision for bringing the store back. Over the fall of 2009 the TCC studio team led by Emilie Taylor (TSA ’06) produced a pre-design booklet which the store owner used as a tool to build support, awareness, and funding for the project.
The 30,000 sf Circle Food Store was an 8 million dollar project for which Mr Boudreaux relied on Architect John Williams, the McDonnel Group as General Contractor, and the Berger Company, a real estate development firm. John Williams (TSA ’78) and his associate, project architect Joel Ross (TSA ’06) performed a full set of architectural services and worked to obtain federal landmark status for the building along with a number of state and federal tax credits. Financing was assembled from a $2.2 million Historic Tax Credit, along with $2.2 million in New Market Tax equity, $1.7 million from First NBC Bank, a $1 million “PROP” loan from the Louisiana Office of Community Development, a $100,000 Economic Development Fund grant from the city, as well as a $1 million Fresh Food Retailer Initiative loan, of which $500,000 is forgivable.
The grand re-opening was celebrated in January of 2014 and featured hundreds of community members, a choir, marching band, and mayor Mitch Landrieu. Circle Food’s renovation includes the return of historic skylights which had been covered for decades but now allow natural light to flood the store aisles and new product additions such as Circle Food Store Hot Sauces and Coffee. 66 local jobs have been created with the re-opening.
At the opening event Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “When I was growing up, the Circle Food Store wasn’t just a grocery store, it was the center of this community. We’ve been anxiously waiting for it to reopen, and I’m excited the day is finally here. The bell peppers are back, and I can’t wait to see the Easter candy display in a few months!”