Q. I am intrigued by Jefferson Market, specifically how a shop came to exist in the middle of a residential neighborhood. I enjoy going there and wonder why there aren’t more cafes like it in other neighborhoods. I’m guessing that’s due to zoning, but if that’s the case, how did Jefferson Market come to be there, and why aren’t there other businesses like it in other residential neighborhoods–or are there?
A. A century ago there was great excitement about the suburbs. They were seen as safe, clean, and quiet refuges from industry and commerce. Zoning was embraced as a way to preserve this tranquility by excluding factories and stores. In 1921, Michigan, along with a number of other states, granted cities the right to regulate land use as well as the height and area of buildings. Federal legislation supporting state zoning followed in 1923.
Ann Arbor city planner Jill Thacher reports that Ann Arbor passed a zoning ordinance in September of that year. “The second ordinance was adopted in 1963, replacing the first ordinance, which by then had been amended 727 times.”
Neighborhood shops had been essential when many people didn’t have cars or refrigerators. Ann Arbor’s older neighborhoods have many buildings that were once shops but have been converted to residences. Jefferson Market is one of the few that survive in commercial use.
It was built in 1920 by Ernest Schneeberger Sr. His wife worked the shop with him, and they were joined by his brother Adolph when Adolph returned from fighting the Bolsheviks as a member of the 1919 Polar Bear Expedition (as described in the January 2013 Observer). Though Ann Arbor zoning no longer allows retail in residential districts, the shop predates the zoning, so it is “grandfathered” in as a “non-conforming use.”
It has just acquired a new lease on life as a Mighty Good Coffee cafe–see Marketplace Changes, p. 57.
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