Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Chicago profs blast 'socially regressive' Obama Center plan

Chicago profs blast 'socially regressive' Obama Center plan

We would be pleased to support the Obama Center if the plan genuinely promoted economic development in our neighborhoods and respected our precious public urban parks. The center will include a 235-foot-tall museum, a forum building for community programming, a library, community athletic center and an outdoor plaza.

According to, "The Obama Presidential Center will be a new landmark for the South Side and an economic engine for the city of Chicago - drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, creating thousands of new jobs on the South Side - and help to continue the revitalization of historic Jackson Park".

What that means - according to the letter - is that while IL taxpayers will be responsible for financing at least a portion of the construction of the Obama Center, if and when money comes in from tourists visiting the center and paying for parking, the state will not see a return on that investment.

Obama released images of the proposed presidential center Tuesday in a YouTube video, showing a white, modern-looking building surrounded by parkland. Construction of a permanent architectural monument violates Olmsted's vision of a democratic urban park.

"At a time of increasing complexity and pressure in urban life, Chicago should be dedicated to preserving our public parks as open areas for relaxation and play for all its citizens", the letter states, criticizing the slated intrusion into the Midway Plaisance and Jackson parks.

The Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition says "low-income, working-, and middle-class communities" will be "directly impacted by the development of the Obama Presidential Center". New plans call for an underground parking garage at the Obama Center site. Parking is expensive, and though public lands are being given away, all the profits from this parking lot will go to the Obama Foundation.

The Obama Foundation outlined the guiding principles behind the center's design in a statement Wednesday. "Not only are public lands being given to a private entity but the public will pay to have Cornell Drive closed and Stony Island Avenue and Lake Shore Drive widened", at an estimated cost to taxpayers of more than $100 million, the faculty wrote in a letter.

We're sure the new 3D renderings for the park - released Wednesday - will only throw fuel on that fire.

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