|Aerial view looking South. Plaza outlined in green.|
As with many older Chicago neighborhoods, Rogers Park developed commercial districts around its public transit nodes. This was especially true around neighborhood el stations. Areas adjacent to stations functioned as primary or secondary commercial districts for the community, with development right up to the front property line. The first floor would consist of storefronts and offices to serve the commuters, and affordable apartments would be found on the second and third floors above.
|Detail of an 80-acre map showing subdivision setbacks.|
Zoning requirements in Chicago were only imposed in 1923, so subdivision setbacks, which were basically private agreements recorded to the parcels, were utilized to guarantee generous front yards and a consistent appearance of a block. The map above shows lots the area immediately adjacent to the El (with no setbacks) while the green areas indicate a required 30 foot "front yard" setback.
|Building footprints with Jarvis Square in green.|
In recent years the Jarvis plaza has been recognized for the neighborhood amenity that it is. It has been elaborately paved, filled with flowering plants and prairie landscaping, and enclosed with a decorative cast iron fence. The building's storefronts have seen a succession of quirky Rogers Park businesses including Don's Coffee Club, which was basically like awkwardly ordering coffee in someone's living room, as well as lefty used bookstores, black box theater companies, and antique shops. The plaza was even the site of the Rogers Park Prom (1996 to 2000?), a peculiar local event that seems to have faded into the mists of time. But the plaza is still there, so perhaps the Prom will someday be revived, with a few ironic vintage prom dresses, a skilled DJ, and a dash of Rogers Park's neighborhood spirit.
|View of Jarvis Square looking East.|