Obama Foundation Submits Formal Plans To City For Presidential Center Construction

Obama Foundation Submits Formal Plans To City For Presidential Center Construction

The Obama Foundation unveiled new plans for the Obama Presidential Center Tuesday after more than 150 professors from the University of Chicago signed a letter opposing an initial proposal.

The campus will feature a museum building, which is planned to be 235-feet-high. "That location, which President Obama rejected, would have been an unambiguous boon to the community and to Chicago". New plans call for an underground parking garage at the Obama Center site.

Obama released images of the proposed presidential center Tuesday in a YouTube video, showing a white, modern-looking building surrounded by parkland. This Center is for young people on the South Side and for young people all around the world - the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and build the world as it should be. It looks to many neighbors that the only new jobs created will be as staff to the Obama Center, hence the widespread support for a Community Benefits Agreement. Martin Nesbitt, Chair of the Obama Foundation board, said that the changes are the result of "thousands of conversations" with local residents and activists.

First, as we've said before, the Obama Presidential Center will be an open, inclusive campus that integrates directly into Jackson Park. What happens to Olmsted's vision for Jackson Park will now be determined by a federal review, the city of Chicago and the Obamas.

Mark Wilson  Getty Images
Mark Wilson Getty Images

"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. A two-level athletic center includes basketball courts (for playing the president's favorite sport) alongside workout rooms and multipurpose space.

Back in his community-organizing days, Barack Obama would have been the one fighting to save historic public parks from developers. All of this is an indication of a lack of a comprehensive plan and neighborhood input. The required widening of Lake Shore Drive alone is estimated to be over $100 million. "We are concerned that these are not the best ways to use public funds to invest in the future of Chicago", the letter says.

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

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