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Grow Dat Youth farm highlighted in Architectural Record

Students at Tulane's design-build program converted a former New Orleans golf course into the 4-acre Grow Dat Youth Farm, which includes a 6,000-square-foot education center made from shipping containers

Urban Oases

Projects from mobile markets to full-on farms are greening America's food deserts.

By Lamar Anderson

In a section of Seattle's Delridge neighborhood, residents who rely on public transportation face a daunting choice: take two buses to get to the nearest grocery store–or trek up a large hill. “What we found was that most people were either going to the grocery store much more infrequently, or they were becoming heavily dependent on convenience stores,” says Carrie Ferrence, a cofounder of Stockbox markets who studied access to fresh food in the city while completing her M.B.A. at Seattle's Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

That scenario is typical of urban food deserts–city neighborhoods with poor access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods. While there is no official measure of how scarce a carrot has to be for an area to qualify as a desert, a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people live in low-income neighborhoods more than a mile from a supermarket, which could contribute to poor eating habits, obesity, and diet-related diseases. But in the vacuum left by traditional stores, urban innovators are experimenting with alternative models for delivering fresh food to underserved areas.

One notable success has been Chicago's Fresh Moves Mobile Markets, city buses repurposed as one-aisle grocery stores that make stops on the West and South Sides of the city five days a week. (The project was featured in the exhibitionSpontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good, which debuted at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale and is on view at the Chicago Cultural Center through September 1.) A pro bono team assembled by Architecture for Humanity Chicago and led by Katherine Darnstadt of the firm Latent Design retrofitted the first bus in 2011. Fresh Moves reached more than 11,000 customers in its first year, and a third bus will join the fleet this month.

In East New York, Brooklyn, Abruzzo Bodziak Architects is extending the mobile idea to agriculture with a pair of butterfly-roofed greenhouse modules based on prefab components. At 1,100 square feet, the larger design fits the common sizes of New York City lots. The firm's client, the nonprofit Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, has access to 11 such sites through short-term leases. Pending financing, the group hopes to begin construction on its first hydroponic greenhouse next spring. “The benefit of having a kit that you can move from place to place or use in multiples is that you don't have to wait to remediate the site, which can be costly and take a lot of time,” says partner Emily Abruzzo.

Back in Delridge, Ferrence and her business partner, Jacqueline Gjurgevich, took a step toward solving the neighborhood's food problem with a pop-up market in a 160-square-foot mobile construction office. Stationed in a parking lot for two months in 2011, the first Stockbox sold a mix of produce, dairy, meat, and grocery staples. The project was a success, but the duo found that they needed more space to meet demand for a wider variety of items. Last year they opened a permanent 550-square-foot storefront in nearby South Park, and this summer Stockbox will add a 2,000-square-foot location in the First Hill neighborhood.

Improving food access alone won't end health problems associated with food deserts, notes Fresh Moves designer Darnstadt. “Getting that produce is just one step of the process that goes into a healthy lifestyle,” she says. At Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans, high-school students not only tend 4 acres of crops in City Park, they also learn how to cook with them. To create the farm, architecture students from the Tulane City Center–the design-build program at the Tulane School of Architecture–converted a disused golf course damaged by Hurricane Katrina into agricultural land, which began production in January 2012, and built an adjacent education pavilion. With each crop, the high-school students learn several recipes, explains Emilie Taylor, design-build manager for the project. “Many students are in single-parent households, and often end up cooking for the family,” she says. “If we can give them skills and access to food, they'll cook better for their siblings.”

In March, Grow Dat began hitting the road, too. For his thesis project, Tulane master's sstudent Justin Siragusa created a mobile farmstand from a modified boat trailer. That evolution underscores the potential for these types of interventions to build on one another. “It's such a simple idea,” says Darnstadt. “You can grow tomatoes in the garden, then sell them to a mobile market, and you see this whole small-scale network of neighborhood enterprises form around food.”

WWNO interviews Tulane City Center Director, Maurice Cox

Sharon Litwin talks with Maurice Cox about the Tulane City Center's role in New Orleans.

WWNO Interview

Tulane City Center project highlighted in the American Scholar

The Tulane City Center public event "Sites and Sounds at the US Mint" to take place on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 was highlighted in the American Scholar, a publication of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. The event will cover the history of four sites in Central City - the Dew Drop Inn, A. L. Davis Park, Magnolia Projects, and Brown Sugar Records, and will include academics, musicians, and musical performances.

Tulane City Center finds new home in Central City

New Wave Article

By: Barri Bronston

Long gone are the hair dryers, manicure stands and barbering stalls that once occupied much of the building at 2100 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The one-time home of Katie’s School of Beauty Culture is now the satellite office of Tulane City Center, the applied urban research and outreach program of the Tulane University School of Architecture.

“A lot of our work is already in this part of town,” says Maurice Cox, Tulane City Center director. “Now our core mission, to serve New Orleans neighborhoods and nonprofit organizations, is perfectly aligned with our community-based location. We hope our presence will signal just how committed Tulane is to neighborhood revitalization.”

Located at the corner of Oretha Castle Haley and Josephine Street, the satellite office occupies the front portion of a 3,000-square-foot building renovated by Redmellon Restoration & Development in partnership with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, a state-chartered agency formed to help revitalize blighted neighborhoods.

The building includes two second-floor apartments as well as office space for Redmellon, whose owner Neal Morris received his bachelor’s, master’s of business administration and law degrees from Tulane. Morris is also an adjunct professor in the architecture school.

“We were looking for a neighborhood-building use for the space,“ Morris says. “I can’t imagine a better fit than City Center.” Working with community partners, Tulane City Center has been involved in the designing and building of dozens of neighborhood revitalization projects over the past several years including playgrounds, healthcare facilities, arts centers, urban farms and more.

Associate director Dan Etheridge says the new space allows City Center to hire four to six summer interns, particularly those with an interest in the rapidly growing field of public interest design. “So many of our students choose the Tulane School of Architecture because of the opportunity to do this sort of work,” Etheridge says.

Magellan Street Garden Project Update

The spring semester design build project is well underway. A team of 12 students are working on the design and fabrication of a shade structure, wetlands, raised beds, and other support structures for a community garden in Algiers. The Tulane team is being led by faculty Doug Harmon and Sam Richards and the community partner on the project is Tony Lee who runs a parks and parkways garden on Magellan Street.

Check out the the group’s facebook page for many more great photos and updates!

Grow Dat featured in ARCHITECT Magazine

ARCHITECT Magazine highlights GROW DAT in an article titled, “URBAN REINVESTMENTS,” by Nate Berg for AIA Architect. This article discusses “Three Schools, Three Cities, and One Loaded Term.” There is a great photo in the slide show by Emilie Taylor, one of several key Tulane faculty and staff members in guiding this amazing project through fruition along with a whole host of Tulane School of Architecture students and the Grow Dat youth themselves.

Offbeat Magazine covers the Guardians Institute of Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum and Cultural Arts Center

Guardians Institute of Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum and Cultural Arts Center

The Guardians Institute of Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum and Cultural Arts Center is a Design/Build project of the Tulane City Center. The article, "Tulane University Constructs Big Chief's Abode," chronicles the life of Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. and the facility dedicated to his legacy. Once put into use, the new structure will serve as headquarters for the mother-and-daughter team’s Book Club and other programs designed to enrich the post-Katrina lives of New Orleans’ children.

Project Lead 

Scott Ruff, Seth Welty, Emilie Taylor, Zach Lamb, advising faculty and staff

Project Team

Evan Amato, Alexandra Bojarski-Stauffer, Mary Catherine Bullock, Jerelle Carriere, Michelle Carroll, Sophie Dardant, Matt Decotiis, Alyce Deshotels, Natan Diacon-Furtado, Nels Erickson, Marianne Graffam, Ellen Hailey, Mike Landry, Jake Lazere, Emile Lejeune, Jason Levy, Xiaoyun Li, Mary Beth Luster, Jeremy Maloney, Jordan Matthews, Oren Mitzner, Kathy Mu, Alison Rodberg, Cameron Ringness, Nicholas Sackos, Sarah Satterlee, Justin Siragusa, Nichole Woggon

Tulane School of Architecture leaves its mark on PitchNOLA 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA— On November 15th, 250+ attendees filled the room at the Propeller Social Innovation Incubator for the 4th Annual PitchNOLA 2012 Lots of Progress competition. 11 Semi-Finalists pitched their ideas for utilizing a vacant or blighted property for community benefit to a live audience and celebrity judges in hopes of winning a cash prize for the purchase of a lot of their choice and implementation of their project. This year’s judges included world-renowned chef John Besh, NORA Executive Director Jeff Hebert and Tulane City Center Director Maurice Cox.

Each of the 11 semi-finalists had three minutes to present three slides to convince the panel of judges that their idea was viable, organizationally and financially sound and would create a benefit for the community. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners received $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 respectively towards the purchase of one or more NORA-owned vacant lots for below-market rate prices to implement their projects.

A Tulane graduate, Cat Kochanski ‘12, won 3rd place for her venture to demonstrate the effectiveness of hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic technologies in providing resources to communities in need.

Congratulations to Tulane City Center for Making “Public Interest Design 100.”

Public Interest Design released an infographic representing 100 people and teams working at the intersection of design and service. This first-of-its-kind Public Interest Design 100 lists many of the diverse, passionate leaders who are remaking the world together. Tulane City Center is #93 on the list and features TSA's Maurice Cox, Emilie Taylor, and Dan Etheridge.

View the complete graphic at