Community Book Center Renovation

In Spring 2016,  a class of 14 students worked with the staff and clients of Community Book Center to create a space that reflects Community Books’ identity as an African-American-centered educational home.

Project Dates

January 2016–May 2016


Like other small independent bookstores, Community Books is vulnerable to factors far beyond founder and owner Vera Warren-Williams’ control. The aim of this 14-week Design/Build studio was to create a space that reflects Community Books’ identity as an African-American-centered educational home, while adapting the space to be more accessible for both existing and new customers in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

Small Center Engagement

The refreshed version of Community Books includes details and design elements that reference the textures and stories that are important to Community Books’ community. Additionally, students updated the branding identity for the store, creating a new logo with a color scheme that matches the new interior and an exterior mural by local artist, Brandan “Bmike” Odums. This project is an extension of the Façade RENEW work the Small Center team is engaged in along Bayou Road and other commercial corridors in town.

Partner Organization

Community Book Center focuses on books written by and about the African diaspora and for over 33 years has had a deep commitment to providing culturally competent resources for educators, students, and families. Community Books goes beyond books and provides a valuable teaching, retail, event, and gathering space for the New Orleans community.


Community Books hosted a grand reopening celebration during Jazz Fest 2016, gaining attention from both new and old customers. Since its opening, Community Books has leveraged its new space to hold book signings and pop-up jewelry stores and art galleries. To view the final project booklet, please click here.


Community Book Center

  • Vera Warren-Williams
  • Mama Jennifer

Team Members

Project Leads

  • Emilie Taylor Welty (Design Lead)
  • Sue Mobley (Engagement Advisor)


  • 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


  • Shoshana Gordon
  • Maggie Hansen
  • Nick Jenisch
  • Donn Peabody


  • Johnson Controls, Inc.
  • Tulane University’s Center for Public Service

Special Thanks

  • Annette Hollowell (Verbena Group)
  • John Coyle (Youth Rebuilding New Orleans)
  • Mike Dang (S Electrical)
  • Michael Wong (Photography)
  • Millhaus