Designers Aid Gulf Area with New Retail Initiative

Helping communities gain access to essential goods and services

Leading architects, designers, engineers, local governments, and community organizations are launching an ambitious initiative to help the Gulf region address one of the pressing needs still faced in many communities two years after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina: a dearth of retail outlets to provide basic goods and services.

The Retail Deployment Initiative (ReDI) is developing a low-cost solution for areas still without local access to staples such as groceries, clothing and telephone and other communications services/equipment.

ReDI, spearheaded by Metropolis magazine and prefabricated design/build firm Modern Modular, will create a series of prefabricated buildings that will serve both as transitional retail “general stores” and community centers.

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“The need here is real and immediate,” says Peter LaBonte of Modern Modular. “Embedding these ‘new general stores’ in the communities will help reenergize the neighborhoods of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast.”

ReDI structures are being designed to be quickly deployable, highly functional, attractive, durable and sustainable. All of the structures will employ sustainable materials and have self-contained power, water and telecommunications sources. The firms involved are donating their skills and resources and working closely with community organizations and local government officials leading the region’s recovery efforts.

ReDI is simultaneously initiating discussions with leading U.S. retailers and marketers of essential goods and services to brand and operate the retail outlets during a three-year transitional period. The proposal calls for the operators to donate a percentage of retail sales back to the community during the three-year commitment period, with the option of subsequently establishing a permanent presence. Alternately, communities will have the opportunity to assume ownership of the structures and determine their use going forward.

The ReDI plan, formalized during a recent meeting in New Orleans at the headquarters of architectural and urban design firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, calls for an initial focus on creating 3,000-square-foot structures in five New Orleans neighborhoods identified as having a particularly dire need for access to daily living essentials. The second stage calls for expanding the initiative to communities in Mississippi.

“We, along with all of the other participants, are so honored to be working on ReDI,” stressed David Rockwell, founder and CEO of famed international architectural and design firm Rockwell Group. “After visiting New Orleans and seeing the devastation first-hand, I was deeply moved by the courage, determination and resilience of the city’s residents. ReDI provides us with an incredible opportunity to proactively address the needs of people living in areas that were among the most severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. We believe that these self-initiated and simple interventions will help revitalize these neighborhoods and create a lasting emotional impact on the community.”

In addition to Rockwell Group, the prestigious list of those who have committed to designing and implementing the ReDI structures include:

•Allison H. Anderson, Principal, Unabridged Architecture (Bay St. Louis, MS), whose sustainable designs for residential structures and public spaces are at the heart of recreating Mississippi’s communities with an emphasis on contemporary design;

•R. Allen Eskew, Principal,Eskew+Dumez+Ripple;

•IDEO, the renowned global industrial design firm;

•Adam Kalkin, Principal, Kalkin & Co. (Bernardsville, NJ), a prefabricated structures visionary;

•John Quale, Assistant Professor and EcoMOD Project Director, University of Virginia School of Architecture

IdeaVillage, a New Orleans-based incubator for small- to medium-sized companies, is acting as the local coordinator with retailers, and global disaster relief organization Mercy Corps will facilitate mentoring between the national retailers and local businesses through its MicroMentor program.

Advisors for the initiative include:

Planning and Design:

•Fred Carl, President, Viking Range

•Andres Duany, Principal, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

•Martin C. Pedersen, Executive Editor, Metropolis


•Michael Barranco, Principal, Barranco Architecture

•James West, Dean, Mississippi School of Architecture

Engineering: Tim McFarland, Principal, Dewhurst McFarland


•Leland Speed, Chairman of East Group and former Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority

•Elizabeth F. Thomas, President, Center for Planning Excellence, Inc., Baton Rouge

Retail Design: Brenda Houston, Senior Director of Store Design, David Yurman

Retail Planning: Bob Gibbs, Principal, Gibbs Planning Architecture

Prefabricated Building and Design: Peter LaBonte, President, Modern Modular

Sustainable Building: Beth Galante, Executive Director of the New Orleans Chapter of Global Green

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