Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Chicago's Roscoe Village

May 9, 2013 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville continues its tour through select neighborhoods that have been allowed to densify without suburban parking requirements. Although locally we tend to overlook the impact of having vibrant urban core neighborhoods outside of downtown, today we highlight a Chicago neighborhood that is becoming increasingly popular: Roscoe Village.

Roscoe Village is a neighborhood in Chicago with 6,200 residents, and is located five miles north of the Loop.  The neighborhood is centered around Roscoe Street and North Damen Avenue. It is bordered by Addison Street to the north, Belmont Avenue to the south, Ravenswood Avenue to the east and the Chicago River to the west.

Roscoe Village is a part of the North Center Community Area, which is one of the 77 Community Areas that Chicago is divided into for Census data and Urban Planning research.  Each Community Area is roughly based on the old Chicago neighborhoods.  Urban development in the area dates back to the mid-19th century after industrialist' realized the potential of the Chicago River's North Branch. After the Fire of 1871 increased the demand for brick structures, the North Branch's banks were soon lined with brickyards and clay pits.

The area's population rapidly increased with the combination of affordable housing and transportation (addition of streetcar lines and the opening of the Ravenswood "L" in 1907).  The neighborhood's economic fortunes changed in the mid-20th century as many residents and businesses abandoned the community for the suburbs. This resulted in a continuous decrease in the neighborhood's population between 1940 and 1990.

During North Center's decline, gentrification began to occur in other areas of Chicago.  Gentrification refers to trends in neighborhood development that tend to attract more affluent residents and concentrated, upscale commercial investment. Old Town was the first Chicago neighborhood to experience gentrification. In the following decades, gentrification in Chicago expanded along its passenger rail lines.  This redevelopment phenomenon found its way to Roscoe Village in the 1990s as gentrification spilled over from adjacent Lincoln Park and Lake View neighborhoods.

Roscoe Village includes six of the most rapidly gentrifying census tracts in the city, according to a study by the Woodstock Institute. In 1999 and 2000, nearly twice as many homes in those tracts were purchased by upper-income buyers than the two-year period between 1993 and 1994. In 2000, North Center—the community area that encompasses Roscoe Village—recorded the second-highest median price for condominiums, town-homes and lofts.

Today, with its bike-friendly streets, Roscoe Village is one of Chicago's most desired urban neighborhoods.  Here is a look at some urban design features that make Roscoe Village a desired place to live.

1. Mass Transit Connectivity

Roscoe Village is accessible by both frequent bus and rail service, extending its resident's walkable footprint.

2. Tree Lined Streets

A mature streetscape provides ample shade and protection from the natural elements.

3. A Mix of Uses

A compact mix of commerical and residential use allows for several every day uses to exist within close proximity of one another.

4. Architectural Diversity

The neighborhood's character and evolving history is bolstered with a diverse mix of architectural styles.

5. Multimodal Friendly

Roscoe Village's streetscape includes a dense network of bicycle and pedestrian friendly throughfares.

6. Pedestrian Scale

Building setbacks are minimal and private uses are designed to engage and interact with the pedestrian, enhancing the concept of walkability.

Article by Ennis Davis