Above is a standard strip mall in Rogers Park. These are scattered throughout the neighborhood and are the primary design for auto-oriented businesses along Clark Street. They are often located on corner lots, which provides frontage on two streets and greater visibility. This one is located mid-block, which is unusual.
|The photo is dated 1958 from the UIC Collection "Images of Change." The Sanborn Map is from 1951.|
|Parking and Circulation|
The most important thing about strip malls is the parking lot. Without a parking lot the advantage of the design is lost. In this case almost every square foot has been given over to parking and circulation.
The second most valuable feature of the strip mall is signage. A large sign provides identification for each business on the strip. These signs are generally as big as can be permitted by current sign codes. Signs are designed for cars driving past rather than pedestrians.
The sign band is for individual business signs and is designed to easily accommodate mechanical and electrical connections. If the sign band is damaged it can be repaired by replacing the cladding.
Because the strip mall design creates a break in the street wall it exposes the unfinished walls of the neighboring buildings. Often these are used for signage as well.
Despite the large amount of space dedicated to signage individual tenants still manage to place additional signs and advertising on the site. Here flags have been attached to the sign band, bunting has been strung from the primary sign to the building, and a feather sign has been placed in the planting strip.
Because the strip mall brings the cars in close to the storefronts additional devices are needed to prevent them from accidentally crashing through. In this case concrete parking stops and metal bollards are used.
More recent strip malls include areas for landscaping. Here a long narrow concrete planter has been located at the front of the lot. Given the size of the strip and its proximity to car exhaust and melting salt nothing can actually grow here. It some point it was paved over. In the winter this is where snow is piled.
Over the years there has been a realization that strip malls are not the most appropriate development for established commercial districts which rely on foot traffic from the adjacent neighborhood. Special zoning overlays can prohibit this type of development, but the community needs to be sophisticated enough to ask for these additional controls. And in many places the damage has already been done.