Obama Presidential Center (Museum & Institute)

Return to Jackson Park homepage.

age by Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC. Page index
Jackson Park Advisory Council's Background, update and commentary page, prepared for
Jackson Park Advisory Council and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference hydepark.org. To Jackson Park hydepark.org home.
To JPAC official website. Return to: JPAC News and Bulletins, Jackson Park Home, Golf Proposal. Section 106 Environmental Review. Below: Garage December 20 2017 Meeting (subsequently the garage was moved to the site in Jackson Park)
Some main links. Lawsuit rulings Feb 19, 27 2019. LAWSUIT DECIDED JUNE 11 FOR BLDG OPC, appeal expected
SEE JPAC'S MEMO TO THE MAYOR (from its May 13 2019 On The Table) dealing mainly with the OPC and why JPAC supports it. Report on responsible landscape planning for the site.

AUGUST 5, MONDAY, 6-8 PM. FEDERAL REVIEW PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE re: any negative/ adverse impacts to be mitigated of the Obama Presidential Center related improvements. Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St. 1st Floor Theater. No registration. Free parking to west. Documents: July 29 box “Key Fed. Review Milestones”, in https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/jackson-park-improvements.html.
Comments by Aug. 30 to abby.monroe@cityofchicago.org.
Remember that these documents identify potential negative impacts on historic properties from the proposed projects, to be mitigated, not positive impacts on the park or negative aspects of the current site.

2018 Updates Request for memories/memorabilia of 2008 campaign for the Museum.
(August 2018 forward) Obama Center Reviews & Updates and early 2019 summary
Some comments/op eds
***(NEW UPDATE PAGE pdf regularly updated) (Posts now up in the PDF for major mid September forward to end of 2018- updates including lease ordinance, lawsuit, delay in work, start of NEPA public process and real
TERMS OF MASTER AGREEMENT ORDINANCES-- To text of city pdf press release
092018_TwoOrdinancesCCRepresentNextSteptoOPC.pdf) Also find text in https://go.obama.org/ find pages. The ordinance passed October 31, 2018. There is more legislation on the roads to come.
Original OPC BIDS. Foundation releases
in response to the subpoenas the 4 final bids to get the OPC-Sun-Times Oct. 19. Read the bids in https://obama.org/updates/rfp-responses-release/. Lynn Sweet story https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/obama-foundation-under-pressure-releases-secret-u-of-chicago-bid/. Tribune article Oct. 20 p1 gives more detail with less dark by-story. What do we learn?
To updates from Foundation.
Public Mtg on Envir Reviews will be scheduled (Introd. was held 9-17)
(round 1 & 2 to defendants- ok to delay hearing until ord. passed, ok to to track and other work in park.)
1st Annual Report issued Aug. 2018- highlights. The report online link in http://obama.org Chicago Plan CPCommission approves OPC, related issues May 17 and
Zoning Committee, City Council give overwhelming full approval May 22, 23 and
the new state budget has $172 M for the road and infrastructure work
Site includes a city library (+) branch... and other changes April-May
Lawsuit (see more in the update page.) (A law professor weighs in on the public trust doctrine application.)
Update Ap 2019 on Foundation Benefits Commitment. June 2019 updates on CBA and MacArthur grant for branch library.,

May 7 2018 ward meeting

OPC ISSUES COMMUNITY COMMITMENT STATEMENT May 4 2018, to be consistently updated.
OPC comes to HPKCC board May 3.
Roadways dispute, 3rd party evaluation and counterclaims May 2018
May 22, 23 City Zoning Committee, City Council (47-1) approve OPC items--
Obama Presidential Center gets green light from full City Council
but not yet a full ordinance and agreement/contract.
Jobs and partnering- http://www.lakesidealliance.com

Meetings, and updates earlier 2018 (Lawsuit--the hearing on motions for summary judgment is moved to June 11)
meeting on Section 106 Review to be announced.
Framework Plan public phase finished, Plan rec'd by COD;
OPC and roads at Plan Commission May 17 then City Council zoning comm and City Council the next week
Updates early 2018 incl. on Feb. 27 at McCormick Place.
Initiatives announced for youth and future leaders, organizational partners.
What the Obamas want for communities and kids- messaged March 2018 -
Leadership and contacts
page index

How many meetings does it take to make and OPC design-
A Foundation reply
to misinformation and questions (read in pdf)
About the Historic and Environmental Review process. NEW PAGE- THE SECTION 106 ENVIR/HISTORIC REVIEW FOR OPC. (Summary of comments + official letters: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/jackson-park-improvements.htm. or
Recent articles recommended by this site: Hyde Park Herald (Tonia Hill) on the various filings with the Chicago Plan Commission-http://www.hpherald.com/2018/01/17/obama-foundation-park-district-cdot-present-updated-plans-city/
Blair Kamin, Tribune architecture critic, Monday, January 22, 2018, page 1- "It's not Obama center vs. Olmsted"-
Also, the Chicago Maroon Jan 22 or 25 and a letter therein came out in favor despite a petition signed by a large number of UC faculty.
An Op Ed by Nature Area Steward Jerry Levy on positive effects of the OPC. As in JPAC Newsletter Feb. 2018
University of Chicago Faculty letter endorsing OPC in Jackson Park. Feb. 2018
Chicago Magazine March 2018 takes a positive slant on melding OPC and Olmsted- http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/March-2018/Olmsted-vs-Obama-Inside-the-Pushback-Against-the-Presidential-Library/
So does the Chicago Defender January 31 2018.
Opposing and supporting letters from UC faculty have been circulated. The following in support is open to the community to sign-

Some links
Foundation/Barack Obama Presidential Library OFFICIAL SITE: http://www.barackobamafoundation.org
A NEW WEBSITE and message (https://obama.org, go.obama.org and go.obama.org/hometown)
https://obama.org/updates/, https://obama.org/updates/communitycommitment.
(University of Chicago Bid site. http://www.oplsouthside.org (The other three bids may still be found in search
City of Chicago sites: http://www.cityofchicago.org/ops, https://www.southlakefrontplan.com.

Advocacy groups.
South Side Neighbors for Hope- https://www.sosiden4hope.org. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SoSideN4Hope.org.
Twitter @SoSideN4Hope. Email sosiden4hope@gmail.com.
Jackson Park Watch- http://jacksonparkwatch.org.
Friends of the Parks- http://www.fotp.org.

https://www.obama.org/the-center about (here) And what President Obama wrote.

SIGN UP TO GET NOTICES FROM THE FOUNDATION: my.barackobamafoundation.org/hello (or obama.org)
Includes an appeal from from Barrack Obama January 21 2017 asking for ideas.
To take surveys on the Obama Center, visit obama.org or go.obama org. To take a survey on the whole park, visit www.southlakefrontplan.com.
A good thumbnail summary (to that point) and link to original with map on all the projects in DNAinfo.

A petition for south parks redevelopment. https://www.change.org/p/ support-chicago-s-jackson- park-restoration-and-obama- presidential-center- development-initiatives. A petition against if certain factors are true is also circulating- link will be given when available.

Meetings and Updates early 2018

AUGUST 5, MONDAY, 6-8 PM. FEDERAL REVIEW PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE re impacts/effects of the Obama Presidential Center and related improvements on impacted historic properties.
Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St. 1st Floor Theater. Registration is NOT required. Free parking in lot to west. Documents should be posted c. July 29, the link will be in/from http://dpd.cityofchicago.org.

Section 106 Environmental and Historical Review- see in our page for findings, background.
March 29, Meeting 2 was held. Late summer and fall are next. Watch for release of final inventory soon.
The (237 page) report is at www.tinyURL.com/jpimprovements. Send comments to DPD@cityofchicago.org.
The urls of the Historic Inventory, Appendices, and Archeology reports are https://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dcd/supp_info/jackson/2018-03-19-HPI-Report.pdf. https://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dcd/supp_info/jackson/Appendices.zip.
A public comment period has ended. Next meeting will be announced this summer.

Summaries of findings and background will be in our page, www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac/Section_106_OPCMobilityHistoricReview_2017.htm.

How many meetings does it take to make a OPC and redefine Jackson Park? February 21 2018 the Hyde Park Herald gave a running description of open and invite meetings in 2017 alone-- 10 sets, total 13 with a summary of what transpired at each.
March 28, May 3, June 21/24, June 27, August 23 and 24, September 14, September 25 and 27, December 1, December 7 and 11. This is beside presentations and Q and A at park advisory council (some with huge attendance), aldermanic, and organizations/ residential buildings.

April 11 2018 the South Lakefront Plan was presented to the CPD Board of Directors. Public comments were mostly favorable with caveats that funding for very little has yet been identified outside OPC and the track (baseball field replacement will be done). Most comments were on the golf proposal. Approval of the plan is for later as federal and local review of major projects are still in progress.

May 17 2018- OPC (Lakefront Protection Ordinance, application for Planned Development rezoning and lease terms, CDOT road plans, CPD replacement track and field- hearing and vote at Chicago Plan Commission.
May 22 Planned Development request at City Council Zoning Committee. Approved.
May 23 10 am City Council gave final approval vote on the OPC application and introduction and reception of the agreements (including lease) and other materials and proposals including South Lakefront Plan,
(tent). Next- city to pass new ordinance, court hearings on lawsuit, federal reviews continue.


2018-2019 updates Gary Ossewaarde

The Foundation is now recruiting youth for the 2019 Community Leadership Corps in Chicago. Visit https://www.obama.org/ for information and routing for sign up. Application deadline is March 24.

JUNE 11 JUDGE BLAKEY RULED IN FAVOR OF BUILDING THE OPC. (appeal is expected). June 11. OPC lawsuit was decided in favor of the city and park district approval of the project. Appeal is expected. Judge Blakey said that parks are more than just Nature areas and that the statute gives the jurisdiction to the legislature and they have already ruled. Case dismissed, and construction should begin immediately. (See the Obamas' statement following news articles and analysis.)

Chicago Maroon: A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit aimed to block the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park, clearing a hurdle—temporarily—to the Obama Foundation’s goal of breaking ground later this year. Elaine Chen and Emma Dyer

The suit was brought by environmental activist group Protect Our Parks (POP) against the city and the Chicago Park District for allowing the Obama Foundation, a private organization, to engage in what POP claimed was an “illegal” grab of public parkland.

After hearing final arguments, federal judge John Blakely said that the OPC’s construction in Jackson Park is not a violation of the public trust doctrine, asserting that Jackson Park does not meet either criteria of being a nature center or man-made lakefill land.

“The facts are clear in this case and the law is more settled than the parties are suggesting,” Blakey said at the hearing, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Mark Roth, the attorney representing POP, said in court that the group plans to appeal the ruling. POP president Herbert Caplan said that the ruling is “not the end of the case.”

Community activist groups also decried the ruling, including Jackson Park Watch, a Hyde Park non-profit organization seeking to protect natural land in Jackson Park. The organization’s co-founder Margaret Schmid told Crain’s Chicago Business that the ruling was “a narrow interpretation of what role the judge should play in such a conflict.”

“There will be an appeal and this is far from over,” Schmid added.

Erin Adams, president of local neighborhood association South Side Neighbors for Hope, told The Maroon that she’s “thrilled” by the ruling. Adams, who was at the hearing, is also a biology professor at the University and lives in South Shore. She has written op-eds expressing strong support for keeping the OPC in Jackson Park.

The ruling was “a surprise in its expediency, but not so much in the actual decision,” Adams said, referring to the judge’s decision to rule immediately after hearing final arguments.

Blakey’s decision to allow parts of the suit to proceed in February after the city’s attorneys asked for the case to be tossed came as a surprise. Adams said she believes that because Blakey allowed the case to proceed and then listened to both parties’ cases before dismissing the suit, the appeal process for Protect Our Parks will now be difficult.

The Obama Center still faces a separate federal review process, as Jackson Park is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Chicago Sun-Times June 11 Jon Seidel and Lynn Sweet

A federal judge declared Tuesday that “construction should commence without delay” on the Obama Presidential Center in historic Jackson Park.


But don’t expect groundbreaking any time soon. A crucial federal review is still pending, and the legal challenge against the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District may not be over.

The decision by U.S. District Judge John Blakey to toss a lawsuit threatening to block the Obama Center means the project has cleared a significant hurdle. The lawsuit has loomed over the project since May 14, 2018.

Blakey announced his ruling after an hour of oral arguments at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. He concluded in a 52-page written opinion that “the facts do not warrant a trial, and construction should commence without delay.”

But lawyers for the advocacy group that filed the lawsuit, Protect Our Parks, immediately told reporters they would take the case to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

And before construction can take place, the project must also go through what has been a long-running federal review, mandated because Jackson Park is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once the review is done, there are more time-eating steps, including a public comment period to consider the findings, time to reply and time to weigh plans to mitigate adverse impacts, if any, caused by the development.

On top of that, it’s not known how Mayor Lori Lightfoot intends to wrangle a pledged community benefits agreement from the Obama Presidential Foundation, and whether she is on board with the proposed $174 million related-traffic redo plan.

The foundation and former President Barack Obama oppose a benefits deal.

A coalition of community activist groups, meanwhile, has turned its attention to the City Council for a benefits agreement ordinance its says would help prevent displacement in the surrounding neighborhoods. Two aldermen say they plan to bring a proposal to the July council meeting.

Lightfoot, in office only since May 20, has yet to receive an official briefing on the project from foundation officials or explain what she has in mind for a local benefits deal. In recent comments to reporters, including an interview this week on WTTW-TV, Lightfoot has simply said she is focused on making sure longtime residents of the area are not displaced by the project.

“I am committed to ensuring that this community hub creates unprecedented cultural opportunities and economic growth on the South Side,” Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday after the judge’s decision. “I look forward to working with community stakeholders and the Obama Foundation to ensure that neighboring communities share in this growth.”

Those communities, while fighting for years to prevent displacement, have still been clear in their support of the Obama Center going to Jackson Park and bringing with it new jobs and resources.

“They want to see the Obama Center come, and when it comes they want to make sure that they’re able to stay in the community that they all know and love,” said Devondrick Jeffers, one of the organizers pushing for a benefits agreement.

The arguments Tuesday were the first in the case since Lightfoot took office. Mark Roth, a lawyer for Protect Our Parks, described the Obama Presidential Center as a “massive giveaway” to the Obama Foundation. The advocacy group has also described it as a “shell game,” an “illegal land grab” and “the poster child for a public trust violation” — one that benefits the foundation without regard to the public.

It has also argued the foundation is essentially a private entity — not entitled to the public land — because it will not have an official government-run presidential library on-site. In May 2017, the Obama Foundation announced that a federal Obama Presidential Library would not be part of the Jackson Park complex.

A key aspect of Tuesday’s argument revolved around whether the 19.3-acre site at Jackson Park had ever been submerged under Lake Michigan. In his written decision, Blakey knocked down the advocacy group’s arguments one by one, including an apparent theory that the Obama Center site “may have been submerged approximately 11,000 years ago.”

State law “clearly authorizes the City to contract with the Foundation in constructing and operating” the Obama Presidential Center, Blakey wrote.

Though the Obama Foundation was not a party to the case, there was no daylight between it and the city and Park District defending its interests.

“We couldn’t be more excited to move forward on our plans, arm in arm with our neighbors in Chicago, ready to bring investment and jobs to the South Side,” David Simas, the foundation CEO, said in a statement.

A group supporting the foundation, South Side Neighbors for Hope, called the decision “a win for our South Side communities who have waited patiently for the influx of jobs, economic development and the resources that the OPC will provide for our South Side children, families and community members.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman

Chicago Tribune June 12, 2019 By Lolly Bowean

US judge finds for Obama Center. Says city had authority to OK project for public land in Jackson Park

In a major defeat for opponents, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the city of Chicago was within its authority when it approved the Obama Foundation’s plan to build the Obama Presidential Center on publicly owned property in Jackson Park.

The center “surely provides a multitude of benefits to the public. It will offer a range of cultural, artistic, and recreational opportunities … as well as provide increased access to other areas of Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry,” U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey said in a written ruling hours after hearing arguments on both sides in a Chicago courtroom Tuesday.

The foundation still has to finish a federal review process before it can break ground on the $500 million, sprawling development. And the environmental group that sued to stop the project has vowed to appeal Blakey’s ruling. But Tuesday’s decision removes one major hurdle.

“Everyone’s had their day in court. … There’s been no rush to judgment,” he said before declaring there should be “no delay in construction. This case is dismissed.”

Blakey’s 52-page written decision outlined in detail why he didn’t buy into the argument from the plaintiff, Protect Our Parks, that the project shouldn’t be allowed on public property because it would not be an asset to the broader public.

“Unconvincingly, Plaintiffs attempt to twist this public benefit into a private purpose, arguing that the Museum’s mission merely ‘seeks to preserve and enhance the legacy of the former President and his wife,’ ” the judge wrote.

Blakey’s decision is the culmination of a yearlong court battle between Protect Our Parks and the city of Chicago over where the Obama Presidential Center should be built.

For much of the legal battle, officials with the Obama Foundation, which was not named as a defendant, remained quiet observers. But on Tuesday, David Simas, the foundation CEO, released a statement saying officials “are thrilled with the City’s victory and grateful to all of those in Chicago and beyond who have believed in this project and made their voices heard every step of the way. Our vision for the Obama Presidential Center has always been one where the location reinforces the project’s core aims: a celebration of history, a place of connection and engagement for the public, and an investment in community.”

And Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has said little about the Obama center plans since taking office last month, released a statement calling the ruling “unequivocally clear” and a significant step forward for the project and the entire city.

“Chicago is where President Obama discovered his love for community service and the Obama Presidential Center will honor his presidency and inspire the next generation of leaders,” she said. “I am committed to ensuring that this community hub creates unprecedented cultural opportunities and economic growth on the South Side.”

The leaders of Protect Our Parks wanted the center moved from the public lakefront park to a privately owned lot farther southwest. In court the group’s attorney, Mark Roth, told the judge that the city essentially gave the 19.3-acre sliver of Jackson Park to the Obama Foundation, which, among other issues, violated the public trust doctrine.

Roth argued that the city didn’t evaluate whether other properties were a better fit and allowed the foundation to dictate where it would build.

“This is a massive venture, and a giveaway of public land to a private entity, here the Obama Foundation,” Roth said. He called the process by which the Park District transferred the land to the city to make the project happen “a scheme to do indirectly what they couldn’t do directly.”

But Michael Scodro, who represented the city, pushed back against those arguments. He said the plaintiffs had misinterpreted the public trust doctrine and that the city did not need to formally evaluate multiple sites because it viewed Jackson Park as an acceptable location.

“The museum itself is the public benefit,” Scodro said. “The record is swelling with evidence of the benefits, not only of this particular museum, but also to its location in a park generally and to this particular location.”

The lawsuit was reminiscent of the court case filed by another environmental group that killed the $400 million museum proposed by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas. In that case, Lucas and his team didn’t wait for a judgment and decided to move the Museum of Narrative Art to Los Angeles.

On Tuesday morning, dozens of residents and community leaders piled into Blakey’s courtroom to hear the closing arguments. The Obama Foundation was not named in the lawsuit, but representatives from the South Side-based group were in court too. At one point, Blakey paused to direct the overflowing crowd to sit in the jury box and in the chairs normally reserved for attorneys.

“You’re getting the VIP seats,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a fire hazard, but at least we got them all in.”

It wasn’t a public hearing, but residents such as Erin Adams, who founded South Side Neighbors For Hope, the Rev. Leon Finney of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, Margaret Schmid of Jackson Park Watch and former DuSable Museum of African American History President Carol Adams attended because they wanted to lend their presence and listen to the arguments for themselves.

When it became apparent Blakey was about to make a ruling, there was a gasp from the crowd.

“Both sides have been given an opportunity to have a full and fair hearing,” the judge said. “I have not permitted needless delay. I have asked the parties to work with expediency and they have done so.

“Even though this might be an important case, it’s not a difficult case. The park should … be considered for what it is — a park and not a nature preserve,” he said.

A small band of environmentalists takes fight against Obama Presidential Center to court »

In his written ruling, Blakey revealed new details about how the project evolved. There were originally 14 potential sites considered for the development, each of which were evaluated and scored by the foundation, he wrote. Although the site in Washington Park received the highest score, the foundation opted for the Jackson Park location.

In 2015, at a public meeting, the Park District Board transferred approximately 20 acres of Jackson Park to the city — which Blakey noted is 3.5 percent of the 551-acre park. In his ruling, Blakey walks through the city’s process of approving the development and details of the use agreement which outlined how the foundation can use the facility once it’s built.

Both in court and in his ruling, Blakey compared the development to Soldier Field, noting that the stadium is publicly owned but used by the privately owned Chicago Bears. The city didn’t do a “comparative analysis” of other locations, Blakey wrote. But it did a thorough study of Jackson Park and the impact of placing the center there.

“If improvements to a football stadium sufficiently benefit the public, the OPC must, too,” the judge wrote.

Adams, who lives in South Shore, called the ruling “a huge win for the South Side. We hope there isn’t a long appeal process. We didn’t expect a ruling today. But his wording was very strong. He took both sides into consideration.”

But for Herbert Caplan of Protect Our Parks, the decision was a painful blow. He said his organization will appeal and continue to fight to preserve Jackson Park as is.

“I’m shocked. I really thought he was not going to rule today and review everything in the record,” he said.

“Today’s ruling, while disappointing, is by no means the final word,” said Charles Birnbaum, president & CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, in a statement. “There are still federal-level reviews underway for this nationally significant work of landscape architecture that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”

The foundation has said it wants to break ground on the project this year and open the facility by 2022. Officials have not released an updated timeline since the plans were delayed by the lawsuit and the federal review process.

Tribune Editorial. A judge rules, and the Obama Presidential Center moves closer to fruition

The big question involving the proposed Obama Presidential Center is whether it get built in Chicago in a timely fashion, if at all. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey gave teh center a welcome push forward.

He dismissed a lawsuit that sought to sidetrack the project, providing a positive legal outcome and a dose of urgency to what's been a nagging hang-up. The case "might be an important case. But it's not a difficult case," Blakey said after listening to lawyers from both sides make their arguments. "There should be no delay in construction."

No delay in construction.With that declaration, Barack adn Michelle Obama's vision to build the presidential center adn campus in Jackson Park, on the South Side where their roots are, marched one giant step toward happening.

The Obama Foundation can't break ground just yet. There's still a federal review of the project that's ongoing, and plaintiffs in the lawsuit already said they would appeal. Should the city ultimately prevail in the legal challenge, the South Side would be that much closer to gaining a transformative political and cultural landmark that should spur significant financial investment in neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of neglect.

It's been nearly three years since Obama came to Chicago to announce Jackson Park as teh center's site. His plans veered far from blueprints for past presidential libraries. As envisioned, there will be no presidential archives on site. Instead, records and documents will be digitized.

The center's programming will focus on South Side youths, offering internships to forge future community organizers and leaders. There will be a branch of the Chicago Public Library. Obama Foundation officials project that in the center's first 10 years, economic development for neighboring South Side communities would top $3 billion.

For the past years, however, the city and Chicago Park District have been battling a lawsuit filed by an environmental group that claimed the project should be shelved because it's being built by a private entity, the Obama Foundation, on public parkland. That would be a violation of Chicago Park district code and state law, charged the group, Protect Our Parks.

At the core of the case, Blakey said, was the struggle between park preservation and a city's need to, at times, encroach on parkland for the public good. Blakey ruled that it's up to lawmakers, and not the courts, to decide what encroachments on parkland are justified. The Obama center is a public benefit, a city attorney argued, and the judge agreed.

We're glad Blakey ruled swiftly because the Obamas have options if they decided Chicago couldn't accommodate their plans.

Beyond any appeal of this case, anticipated next steps include bashing our a community benefits agreement. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has endorsed the idea of this agreement, which would lock in the projects's benefits to surrounding neighborhoods through a contract. South Siders want the CBA to prevent displacement of longtime resident, impose a property tax freeze, and ensure job generation and construction of affordable housing. Obama has resisted the CBA, so its up to Lightfoot to resolve the impasse.

On Tuesday Lightfoot applauded the judge's ruling, adding that she wants to ensure teh Obama center's benefits"can be shared by all."

That should be a priority. So should moving ahead with the presidential center. The South Side, and the rest of Chicago, is waiting.

Statement by Barack and Michelle Obama after the decision- from Foundation release.

When Michelle and I first began thinking about what the Obama Presidential Center could be, one thing was clear to us both: We didn't want to build only a monument to the past—we wanted to build a Center for the future. We hoped to create a place that would nurture and inspire the young people who walked its halls and played in its parks. A place that would invigorate the community that gave us so much. A place that could anchor Chicago as a destination for anyone who wanted to make a difference.

That's why what happened this week is such a big victory. After a thorough review, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago that sought to prevent the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. It's a win that will benefit the whole city.

The campus we've got planned will be far more than a museum—it will be a tribute to Chicago's rich history, its defining legacy of progress, and its extraordinarily bright future. It will include a branch of the Chicago Public Library for people to reflect and read. An auditorium for performances and special events. A recording studio to bring in the city's dynamic voices. A plaza that can host everything from film screenings to festivals. An athletic center that can teach sportsmanship as much as sports. A playground that will light up your child's imagination, and a garden that will teach them how to grow something from the ground up. And—this one's really exciting to me—a sledding hill on the South Side.

We want to give every family in the community the kind of safe, welcoming, enriching environment they deserve. That's why we consulted directly with people throughout the South Side and the City to make sure we're delivering on that promise. And that's why the vast majority of this campus will be free and open for the entire community to enjoy. So let's do this together. Let's construct a Center for the community—with the community. Let's build from the deep foundation of pride, talent, and possibilities on the South Side. Let's write the next chapter of our shared history.

Thanks, everybody. Michelle and I look forward to working together with you in the months and years ahead.

MAY 2019 Mayor-elect Lightfoot said she she will be meeting with all the sides for a best result including a CBA.
Ald. Hairston said after the election that she will convene a broad stakeholders mtg. with the CBA organizers on a broad CBA with Ald. Taylor after May 20. She and 20th Ward Alderman Jeanette Taylor announced on June 6 that that stakeholders meeting will take place June 10 with intent to file an ordinance in City Council in July covering 30% affordable in new housing development , property tax freeze, funding for local jobs, jobs training, and workforce development, and a community trust fund for home repair and tax relief long-time residents.
Unclear in news reports is whether and how much the Obama Foundation might bed expected or compelled to contribute beyond their Commitments document, or what might might happen if the lawsuit continues o the Center not built. Neighborhoods are expected to be South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn.

June 6 the Foundation announced that the MacArthur Foundation will make a $5M grant toward the 82nd branch of Chicago Public Libraries, to be built on the OPC site. The 5,000 square-foot public library will house multimedia collections, host community programming, and include spaces for reading and studying that can be converted to open seating for events. MacArthur’s grant to the Obama Foundation will help fund construction of the branch as well as furnishings and fixtures, and a dedicated children's reading area according to MacArthur's release.The branch will include a YOUmediaChicago music production lab that will also mix media with art and science, 2 and 3D design, photography and podcast creation. YOUmediaChicago is a MacArthur project based on MacArthur-funded research and is now implemented at Harold Washington and many branch libraries and 24 libraries and museums across the country, with the objective being equitable access, child-learning science grounded, object-based learning and creativity, as well as to help bring library services into the 21st century and open up new careers and opportunities. Michael Strautmanis, Chief Civic Engagement Officer of the Obama Foundation, said “We want the Obama Presidential Center to serve as a reminder to young people around the city and the world that their potential is limitless,”

The Foundation also has announced large civic engagement training convocations held for people around the world in Bogota and in Chicago and the West coast.
Also programs honoring and giving to civic engagement student projects and to the schools in Chicago Public Schools--Community Leadership Corps (was held at Roosevelt University at the end of May).

Report on open meeting April 27 with Robert Rock of Living Habitats on responsible landscape planning for the site.

Report on discussion with Robert Rock of Living Habitats. From members of Southside Neighbors 4 Hope as in their newsletter of June 3 2019. This editor, Gary Ossewaarde, was also present and confirms the report is substantially correct. Facts were also checked by Mr. Rock and members of the Obama Foundation.

Even with snowy weather outside, our Earth Day conversation with landscape architect Robert Rock helped us understand how the landscape design strategy for the Obama Presidential Center is mindful of climate change, migratory birds and stormwater runoff and reuse. Rock is a Principal at Living Habitats, a Chicago landscape architectural practice comprised of landscape architects and ecologists. Their local knowledge and environmental underpinnings are an important part of the OPC landscape team, led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn, New York. During our gathering we discussed the many steps the design team and the Obama Foundation are taking to ensure that the OPC will be integrated into this environmentally and historically significant site. Our discussion touched on the challenges of preserving the site as it exists today and the opportunities to both honor the heritage of the site while designing in our current era of climate change. Attendees were impressed by both the depth and thoughtfulness of the analysis that has gone into the landscape design strategy, particularly the point that the landscape is not only meant for "us" today, but rather is to last for generations of visitors and park users.

Trees: Mr. Rock answered questions about designing with the types of trees and plants that will be able to thrive as our climate changes as well as the state of the existing trees on the site. He noted that the current condition of the trees on site was assessed in an initial survey by the Bartlett Tree Experts. Nearly forty percent of the trees were determined by the arborist to be in decline or generally undesirable for a number of reasons. A separate tree and soil assessment by soil biologists and mycologist indicated that yet other trees were threatened by soil pathogens that have already damaged existing root structure. The landscape design strategy includes expanding the biodiversity of the vegetation represented on the project site (the tree survey revealed a serious lack of biodiversity as nearly half of the total number of existing trees fall into only three genera) and choosing species that can better withstand the anticipated extreme weather swings of climate change. Perhaps more importantly, the landscape design strategy will look at vegetation size and growth rates as a way of choreographing the changes in the landscape with time as a variable. The vegetation being installed now will naturally grow and compete with other plants and other forces over time as the site matures and will continually evolve as a space that our children will enjoy when they are grown and will be experienced by the generations that follow them.

Birds: We had an opportunity to discuss the migratory birds that frequent Jackson Park, and the steps that are being taken to actively design for this important park user. From the earliest stages of the design process, the landscape architects have been working closely with the building architects to identify potential hazards to birds and how to reduce the potential for bird strikes. Some strategies were highlighted by members of the group, like the potential use of “bird-safe” glass that is visible to most species of birds and helps to minimize bird strikes. Rock noted that early design conversations have also included the reduction in blind corners on the buildings, which frequently confuse birds and lead to increased bird strikes, and the proximity of vegetation to windows. [Ed. Mr. Rock also pointed out the importance of correct distance between plantings and buildings.]

Water: Plans for the OPC include an innovative strategy for stormwater management and reuse in which large areas of the site are designed to capture the 100 year storm (over 2 million gallons) and retain it for reuse within the park. Harvested stormwater will be used as irrigation and for other grey-water reuse within the buildings. At the same time, the work done on the OPC project to harness and cleanse stormwater in this small portion of Jackson Park, will benefit adjacent spaces like the Lagoons where currently stormwater practice has allowed stormwater to drain directly from Cornell Ave adding trash, sediment, and other pollutants to the lagoon.

Soil: Soils are a critical component of any landscape as they support a healthy and vibrant landscape. The soils that exist on the site, most of which will need to be removed during construction, are layered with heritage elements both good and bad. The good being the soil and root biology that has developed over many years in tandem with the vegetation; and the bad being the spoils from the years of change, construction, roadway expansion, demolition dating back to the massive change to transform this into the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition. As yet another innovative strategy, the design team is working to harvest the heritage soil biology and preserve it during construction such that the new soils can be inoculated with this heritage soil ecosystem. Doing so will help to support the new landscape as it becomes established and will further enhance the site’s microbial diversity while aiding in carbon sequestration.

Protect Our Parks lawsuit.

June 11. OPC lawsuit was decided in favor of the city and park district approval of the project. Appeal is expected. Judge Blakey said that parks are more than just Nature areas and that the statute gives the jurisdiction to the legislature and they have already ruled. Case dismissed, and construction should begin immediately.

Discovery/document sharing is nearing its conclusion of April 19.

Schedule for lawsuit

May 3 as the date for the parties to submit motions for summary judgment, each asking the Judge to rule in its favor
May 17 as the date for the responses to these motions;
May 24 for the replies to those responses; and
changed to JUNE 11 for a hearing on the motions and possible summary judgment/dismissal.

February 19, 2019 (February 27 follows)

Obama Presidential Center. Protect Our Parks lawsuit hearing update.
Press and other reports differ significantly. This is what our team (which includes lawyers) have gleaned either or both from attending and from the 21-page ruling in Federal District Court February 19, 2019. GMO

Judge John Robert Blakey ruled that the lawsuit may proceed, but to a fast conclusion, by trial or not. This ruling was NOT on the merits of the case but on a city and park district motion to dismiss and to determine which counts the plaintiffs have standing to formally pursue, in a six-week schedule that includes disposition of discovery, motions et al, briefings, and ruling on whether the case goes to trial.
The case rests upon proving whether public trust doctrine was violated and whether due process and public input were by various means circumvented or ignored- including whether there was deception, or bait and switch, and whether the land was conveyed to a private entity, or gives disadvantageous terms to the public.
Counts 1 and 6 were dismissed; Counts 3-5 are essentially state matters, so not at issue in the motion to dismiss by local agencies and not mentioned in the ruling. Count 2 can proceed.

Count 1- dismissed. This count alleged aesthetic and environmental injuries/damages to individuals. The judge said that there is no evidence that these two persons actually used the park, so no case.
Count 2- standing was granted to proceed through the next stage This count alleges collusion, deception and other crimes and misdemeanors and lack of public process resulting in taking land, especially lakefront parkland (thus from taxpayers without just compensation) and of using taxpayer money without due process by the Illinois legislature vote and votes by city bodies including the Plan Commission and City Council. (Plaintiffs may be asked to show evidence on each point including whether the land is being privatized, whether that is permissible and properly compensated for, all the way to how hearings and public meetings do not amount to proper input or were ignored). The judge also said in a footnote regarding the road changes that plaintiffs claim that the "city is using tax payer funds for environmental remediation and road work and that is illegal," environmental remediation and road work are not illegal use of taxpayer money.
Count 6- dismissed. This count alleges that the Presidential Center advances or could be used for political
purposes, violating the plaintiffs First Amendment rights and tax law, regardless of what is said in the OPC Agreement covering uses. The judge called this “multiple levels of wild factual speculation” and said that if these issues cropped up after the Center is open, the plaintiffs could re-file.
Overall, he said that if “‘public trust’ doctrine is to have any meaning or validity at all...at least taxpayers who are the beneficiaries of that doctrine must have the right and standing to enforce it.”

At a February 27 court date for case management and ruling on discovery and evidentiary disputes, the judge will set a 45-day period for finalizing discovery, and also set a tight six-week schedule for final briefings and ruling on whether there will be a trial. (These may be coterminous.) A main dispute for February 27 is over how much and what kinds of records and information the city and park district are required to furnish-- plaintiff's say the defendants are stonewalling with only the records of the big votes necessary while the defendants say the requests are for a fishing expedition into internal operations. The judge said previously that much of what is requested could be obtained through search engines. The judge had thrown out both sides list of information sought and asked for a joint, agreed upon list by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

There is no doubt, however, that the continuation of the case will at least result in delay, often the minimum object of lawsuits.

On February 27 the sides sparred on the topics and types of documents necessary for discovery to the plaintiff. These include all related to projected costs, environmental and traffic studies and projected financial benefits from the OPC and directed the city to appoint an official to be deposed on the same. (The judge had previously noted that material on most of the issues was already on line and could be "googled.") When pressed on exactly which documents were sought, the judge said he would micromanage the process and set March 7 for the next hearing on discovery. It became evident (see below) that most of the material sought was already provided or readily available, or doesn't exist, or is inadmissible and amounting to a fishing expedition, including thoughts and conversations of officials and staff. April 19 was set as the date for close of discovery, May 3 for filing of motions for summary dismissal by both parties, May 17 for responses to the same, May 24 for replies and May 31 for hearing on these motions.

As parsed by JPAC's team including lawyer:
There are 11 categories of evidence discovery Judge Blakey ruled on.
Discovery 1. The conversations of legislators who passed the state OPC legislation including with the Mayor.
The Judge said the legislation there was ample public record and it is illegal to question staff about subjective conversations; he would not let them ask private thoughts of every alderman and legislator. The Judge asked if city could appoint someone to read the public documents to Protect Our Parks (POP) and explain them to POP. There is a 30v6 called the limited scope request which applies to this ruling.
Discovery 2, 3, 4. Moot due to Judge's ruling last week.
Discovery 5. POP request for Traffic study costs, road changes cost, environmental site cleanup costs. City lawyers explained that every thing they had was already turned over. The Judge ordered them to check and turn over any unturned over cost estimates. And if there is nothing new, then so be it.
Discovery. 6. Financial Benefits to OPC for itself.
POP said OPC could get rich from naming rights, meetings, museum fees etc.
City said the Use Agreement gave the city control as with agreements with other Museums in the Parks, that the Use Agreement has all questions asked in discovery 6 answered and called the recitation "speculations" about potential benefits
Judge Blakey said that IF there were any documents about benefits to OPC that were not in the Use agreement, to please share with the POP. And to appoint someone to read over the Use Agreement with POP and explain it.
Discovery 7. Fair Market Value and Fair Rental Value of the OPC site. POP said the terms are actual an OPC windfall because of low rent.
City said the ownership of land goes to City and no Appraisal of the rental value exists.
The Judge said that if there is no appraisal or rental value, then city can't produce it for discovery.
Discovery 8
POP requests all Soil analysis and remediation costs. City says they have given POP all that they have. The Judge says check again and see if there any other cost reports and share them. If there are no more then city can't share more.
Discovery 9 - moot from previous week's ruling.
Discovery 10- POP says the site may be on Lake Michigan (Lakefront public trust) submerged land, says it does not trust the city Historic Map. The Judge asked POP if they have other maps. They said they have writings. The Judge said bring them all to me and I will rule on them.
Discovery 11 moot- previously ruled. Rule 56-D pertains--the Judge had denied without prejudice the previous motion to dismiss.
March 7- judge will see all documents one by one and make decision.
April19- Discovery Closed.
May 3 - judgment on all motions
May 17- initial plaintiff and Defense replies to all motions and cross replies May 24th -Final replies to all cross replies and motions.
May 30th -the Hearing.
Changed to June 11, when decision was rendered.



Some recent comments, op eds

Chicago Tribune Dec 31 2018 by Torrey L. Barrett, CEO of KLEO agency

The Obama center and parity at city parks

Black and brown kids in Chicago deserve an equal playing field, literally. That's what Friends of the Parks announced in a report released earlier this month. As a South Side native working to make a positive impact on our community, I am always interested in new ways we can make sur our kids have the same access as everyone else, regardless of their ZIP code.

However, one major park project was curiously omitted fro the repot--the Obama Presidential center, which will soon find its natural home in Jackson Park. The center will bring new life to this historic park, restoring it to the crown jewel on Chicago's lakefront that it once was. It will remove the speeding cars, which cut through the center of the park, allowing kids to safely run and play. It will create new active and passive open spaces, including children's playgrounds, a sledding hill, and waking trails. It will bring new educational and recreational opportunities in their own backyard.

While Friends of the Parks calls for more resources, it simultaneously ignores the pinnacle example of what black and brown kids deserve from their parks. As they reflect on their own report, I hope Friends of the Parks will come out, once and for all, to publicly support bringing the Obama Presidential Center to Jackson Park.

October the Committee on Real Estate then the Committee on Transportation approved the two ordinances. City Council passed them October 31. There appears to be more to come on some of the road work.

Updates from Obama Foundation- October 2018.

Recap of Housing and Real Estate Committee Meeting
On Thursday, we presented the Foundation's Use Agreement and related documents for the Obama Presidential Center to the city's Housing and Real Estate Committee. Nearly thirty community members came out to express their support, and after nearly three hours of presentation, public comment, and discussion, the Committee voted unanimously in favor of advancing our Use Agreement to City Council. My sincerest thank you to all those who showed up at City Hall and waited hours to speak. It means a lot to us, and we are very excited to keep this momentum going. The City Council will vote on the Use Agreement and related documents on October 31.

Lakeside Alliance Updates
Lakeside Alliance—the group that includes four African-American-owned construction firms that will oversee the building of the Obama Presidential Center—held a career and training opportunities fair at Malcolm X College last night that was a big success! More than 80 people came out to learn more about pre-apprenticeship programs, job readiness training, manufacturing training, and more. Check out a snap from this event below.

Lakeside will also be opening a resource center at 1750 E. 71st Street later [Oct. 29 2018]. Local residents will be able to meet members of the Lakeside team and learn about job opportunities for the Center's construction while also meeting representatives of training agencies who can share insights on how to access Chicago-wide opportunities in the construction industry.

Update April 2019 on Foundation Community Benefits Commitment (After the April 2019 election, Ald. Hairston said she and Ald. Taylor would convene a broad group on CBA after May 20.)

The following was put out in SouthSide Neighbors 4 Peace update. (Meanwhile, nearly all groups and officeholders including teh local alderman are onboard for a Community Benefits Agreement, but between who, what it involves, and who leads is not decided.)

Economic Impact and Jobs:

The Foundation spent more than $6 million with more than 70 diverse businesses across different economic sectors. A quarter of that—$1.5 million—was with Chicago-based companies.
Lakeside Alliance, a coalition of diverse construction firms, was chosen by the Foundation to be their construction managers. Lakeside has opened a South Side Resource Center to facilitate job training and workforce recruitment and connect with sub-contractors. They are present at career fairs, job information sessions, and ward meetings around Chicago.

Youth Programming

A new joint award with Chicago Public Schools to celebrate and honor Chicago students, schools, educators, and community partners who have made a powerful impact in their communities through civic engagement and action
A new public library branch will be located at the future Obama Presidential Center.
Launched the Community Leadership Corps, a program designed to help young people aged 18-25 create the world they want to live in by working to address an issue in their community. Training sessions were held in Chicago in June, August, and November 2018.
Continued its partnership with Urban Alliancefor the second year. Obama Youth Job Corps begins workforce readiness training starting in the 10th grade.
Continues the work of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, particularly as it relates to mentoring and youth violence prevention. So far the Foundation has invested $1 million in Chicago for staffing, training, and financial support to assist local organizations that are doing the most innovative work improving the lives of young men of color.

Request for Memories/Memorabilia for OPC Museum, from Director Louise Bernard. To site, with live links-

Today is President Obama's birthday. And I'm not going to ask you to sign a card, or pass along well-wishes for his day. I'm asking you to do something that I think might mean even more to him.

I'm asking you to capture your memories from President Obama's election in 2008: what you saw, what you heard, who you called, the moments that were meaningful. We'll take your photos, your journal entries, and especially audio files of your recollections. We're also interested in keepsakes or artifacts you think would be valuable additions to the museum—send us a photo, tell us about them, and someone from our team may get in touch with you to learn more.

Your memories will go into our story collection archive and may also become part of a museum exhibit. You can share them right here.

So many people made this groundbreaking presidency possible. Whether you caucused in Iowa or voted in 2008 for the first time, whether you knocked on doors in Florida or celebrated in Grant Park, or whether you watched along with millions of people around the world on election night, your memories will help build a collective memoir.

This archive of memories, both physical and digital, will allow future generations to learn about this historic election through the words of those who lived it.

We can't tell this story without you. And that's why I hope you'll visit Obama.org/History to learn more and share your story with us.

Ten years ago, you helped make history. Now, we need you to help write it.

The May 13 Sunday Tribune page 23 Perspective features a letter from Chicago History Museum President Gary T. Johnson outlining how "Evolving Jackson Park has room for Obama Center" asserting it is in line with park preservation, Olmsted's vision, and what Chicago has done in parks over a century and a half.
Hyde Park Historical Society in its Section 106 comment prefers just narrowing Cornell Drive, asks preserving and honoring the Perennial Women's Garden with access, and notes that there may be still more archeological/historic remains in the site requiring monitoring and if needed excavation during construction.
Gary Ossewaarde April 5 2018 letter to HP Herald on proper vetting of OPC and related projects, in pdf.
Gary Ossewaarde letter May 17 to the Plan Commission on OPC and related, in pdf.
Mary Anton letter to the Herald about Jackson Park Watch positions-
OPC Community Commitment statement. That May 16 issue contains several letters and articles on the subject.
Jackson Park Watch and Herald coverage of JPW's road proposals study and request to reject OPC)

June 28 2018 the Foundation announced its selection of Ernest R. Sawyer Enterprises (ERS) to serve as an outside watchdog to ensure that diversity goals are met and transparently reported. this will include site monitoring and enforcement of penalties. It will also use its experience on many projects to gain and give access to pools and pockets of workers and firms that that often fly below the radar, with true unemployment in minority and low income and otherwise segregated neighborhoods well documented.
Jacqueline Gomez has been hired Director of Real Estate Inclusion, the point person for the Foundation.

Lakeside Alliance has opened an office in Black United Fund, 1750 E. 71st St. and starting citywide outreach, fairs, and skills training. A major event is to be launched October 11.

May 17 the Chicago Plan Commission unanimously approved the 6 docket items for the Obama Center:
19409 on the rezoning/planned development application
722 recommendation under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance and another for the CDOT road closures and changes
723 for the replacement track and field
2 Recommendations to City Council around amendment to language of Intergovernmental Agreement defining the Center and its lease footprint, and lease terms

(May 22 the City Council Zoning Committee recommended 9-1 to City Council the parts under its purview.
May 23, City Council, after a large number of pubic comments for and against in the public speaking segment ahead of the meeting, approved all 6 ordinances 47-1.
The lone dissenter at both meetings was David Moore, on grounds of public cost when there are so many unmet infrastructure and social needs in the neighborhoods. The approvals included the OPC and revised permission to lease and definition of site and use, roadways, Framework Plan, and golf consolidation plan.

May 30 and 31 the General Assembly passed the state budget that includes $174 million in road, underpass and infrastructure work related to the Obama Presidential Center. It is pat of $180 M infrastructure grant to CDOT. The Senate vote was 56-2, the House vote was 97-18. The Governor signed on June 4.)

Plan Commission: Following 5 hours of sometimes strong but sometimes good spirited demonstrations, counter chants etc. and an attempt at disruption at the beginning of the Plan Commission meeting by the CBA group members leading to their escort out (until after most of the large numbers of speakers were finished and significant numbers of the overflow crowd had left), the presentations, speeches starting with Ald. Hairston, comments/questions from aldermen and commissioners, and public comments commenced. Many supporting and opposing written statements as well as "postcards" and letters collected by the Foundation and Dr. Finney were submitted into the record. The meeting lasted from 10 am until about 5 pm.
Revealed were strong divisions, discerning questions and comments, and questions about information left out of the presentations-- only a few of which received clear answers. Among the latter that this writer noted were:
Terms of the lease including rent, areas of responsibility, control, perpetuity including price vetoes and guarantees of open public access. (Perhaps much of that will come out at the City Council and committee hearings, or it could be later.)
Space details including what is considered "parkland" in taking and giving back. (Some seem to think it somehow denigrates the Women's Garden if it does not remain regular parkland whole management is contracted out as at present vs. being in the Center's lease area and upkeep responsibility with access improved including through removal of intervening roadway.)
Financials including for roads and infrastructure.
It was made clear that Federal Review process will override specifics of the approvals given today.

A few individual's positions were reported inaccurately or in unrepresentative context.) Among all these, virtually every aspect about the projects discussed or alluded to in following sections of this page came up. Some media seemed to think this was just a rubber-stamp, but given the magnitude and public attention to the issue at the start of an election year and that the commission is quite diverse including in neighborhood of residency and ethnicity of the members) and that lots of questions and concerns were raised by commissioners, the unanimity argues against mere rubber stamping. 10 of the 22 members are appointed by the Mayor, the rest are elected officials and ex officio such as heads of museums. 15 of the 22 voted, the rest being recused or absent though proxies were allowed. The vote on all items was unanimous.

c. May 14 an organization called Protect Our Parks filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the OPC in Jackson Park. The suit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois by the firm of Mark D. Roth and Robert (Bob) Fioretti on behalf of the 501 POP, led by Herbert Caplan, who filed to block the arrangement for a Latin School soccer field in Lincoln Park. According to a feature in the May 18 Hyde Park Herald, Hyde Park members of POP or supporters of the suit did not choose to be identified. The group is largely in Milwaukee and Lakeview.
Whether this suit will significantly halt or delay process and approvals is unknown.
The suit has not been read by this site but is announced as available from www.hydeparkherald.com. According to media coverage alleges that the change from a Federal Records and National Archives-affiliated Library to a Center is an institutional bait and switch, outside the original enabling legislation and current ordinance so that the later changes to allow Presidential Center and Museum as well as a Library is ex post facto. It also alleges Center is a private-use land grab by a private nongovernmental entity against public trust legal responsibility of the park district and city, and that the land transfers from park district to city to prospectively the Obama Center were a subterfuge and that items in the Park District code are violated through transfer of land, valuable land for no or little compensation. That this also, the suit alleges, is not authorized by the state Park District Act.

And it alleges that parkland cannot be turned over to a non-governmental private entity for private use.

Observations: Chicago Sun-Times strongly criticized and refuted the suit while saying there are still matters to be resolved- "Quit fighting Obama Center's location in Jackson Park." It pointed out how the change in focus for the Center is a distinction without a difference. The Chicago Tribune says similar and points to decisions still to be made in an editorial entitled "What the Obama center does-- and doesn't owe--Chicago. It supports inter alia closure of Cornell Drive but says those things need to be more compellingly shown by the Foundation, city, and park district.
Mayor Emanuel pointed out what he calls frivolous and anti Chicagoan in the suit and says the public will begin to see its answer to the law suit at the Plan Commission meeting May 17.
Friends of the Parks said it continues to prefer the OPC be in the Washington Park neighborhood, but it is not part of the lawsuit.

This writer: Other institutions from museums to hospitals have been allowed to lease, build and exercise control on parkland, by similar conveyance. The footprint of this will one will be almost entirely open-access and free (including a public CPL branch library), with the remaining part of the Museum building arguably serving public purpose, the same way the Chicago History Museum does, and with affordability promised. (There may also well be required CPD vote needed on prices like for the other Museums in the Parks, but the language of the lease is not available yet to the public as of ahead of the May 17 Plan Commission hearing, so we don't know the conditions of lease and agreement, if these have been worked out.) If the state law (Illinois Aquarium and Museum Act) and city ordinance need to be changed for Center rather than Presidential Library, one would assume this will be done. Whether the laws of conveyance and the conveyances were ex post facto will have to be decided by the court. If so, the conveyances would presumably have to be made again.

The Park District board regularly amends or makes exceptions to its Code- The Board of Commissioners made some, for example at the May 2018 meeting. The museums in the parks and other leasing institutions such as LaRabida Hospital pay a low rent, and indeed the Museums receive subsidies, partially in exchange for free days.

Turnover to a private firm for management or for a non-governmental uses is common practice. A strong case will doubtless be made that the purpose of the center is public and the land remains public although leased.
In the lawsuit defendants argued in summer 2018 that the land to be used by OPC has not been turned over, no harm has been done and an ordinance covering site and allowed usage will be passed by city council.

In a hearing August 14 on petition by plaintiffs that commencement of work and cutting of trees for the track and field was harm and cause to not delay the suit. The judge tacitly agreed with defendants argument that the site is not part of what is to be used for the OPC and they never promised no work on the track site or elsewhere in the park. The case was recessed until after the city has passed the OPC ordinance. The judge did not grant plaintiff’s motion and said he would see the parties back after the city passed the OPC ordinance and lease agreement but the parties can move forward with discovery, subpoenas, et al including how Jackson Park became the site for OPC, for the larger lawsuit. Not addressed were arguments that damage was done by trees removal (note- many of these were dead or dying) and possible damage to historic remains or their becoming less (note- the track is mostly above ground and historic inventory so far indicates what’s underground does not have historic value sufficient of excavation). (More in next)

(August 2018 through Sept) Obama Center Reviews & Updates
(ITS OWN PAGE pdf regularly updated and revised since)
(Posts now up in this PDF for major mid September forward updates including lease ordinance, lawsuit, delay in work, and start of NEPA public process. See city press release on the Master Agreement Ordinance- go to
city pdf press release 092018_TwoOrdinancesCCRepresentNextSteptoOPC.pdf) )
JPAC main pages on the matters, with links: http://www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac/Newsletters/Obama_Center_Reviews_Updates.pdf (this page)

January 2019 summary

Lawsuit- The last date for amicus briefs and arguments re city request for dismissal vs. setting of trial date has passed. Among those filing briefs (some being joint) were the Chicago museums, Preservation Chicago, Jackson Park Watch, Cultural Heritage Foundation, law professor Richard Epstein, other UC law professors in favor, Nichols Park Advisory Council, Katherine Newhouse, and Ross Petesen. .
More gifts were reported by the Foundation in the last quarter of 2018.
My Brothers Keeper (MBK) Challenge Competition held several events including in volunteering to combat homelessness and hunger, with Honeycomb Project including packing 250 lunches on MLK day.
The Foundation teamed up with CPS for grant awards to students/student-led projects, educators, schools, and community organizations making an impact for leaderhip in civic engagement.
Global Girls were involved in several projects.
The Lakeside Alliance opened a job resource-career pipeline center (not just related to the OPC project) in South Shore on 71st St.


Modified 8-22-18 GMO. The following page portion will be periodically updated online.

OBAMA CENTER. The Section 106 and other reviews of historic and environmental effects and impacts of proposed changes, and any ameliorations/mitigations that will be required in a Memorandum of Agreement for the OPC to proceed, and for the road changes to proceed, will not be completed until early next year. The final Historic Properties Inventory is still scheduled to be released this summer. Next up in late summer/early fall is a meeting (“3rd”) that includes a report on “impacts” and on preferred alternatives for lost recreational land/fields. This fall will see: the “4th” Section 106 historic properties Consulting Parties meeting (JPAC is included), the final Memorandum on that, and the environmental (NEPA) finding that will be subject of a public meeting in late 2018. The final federal finding is due in early 2019. There are varying views about how the review process should go, and the assumptions under which it operates, and involved is lots of material, staff time, thought, and likely negotiation, not to mention the volumes of comments and testimony to be sorted. Conclusions and reaction to some or all--will likely be, or viewed as subjective.

Meanwhile: (1) The city is preparing a complete, updated lease contract/ ordinance specifying the site and terms of use for OPC operation--this should go before City Council at the end of summer or early fall and is expected to factor into the lawsuit re: siting and use of park land for the OPC. (2) In response to the review and other delays, the official groundbreaking and start are now pushed back by the OPC to some time in 2019. Michael Strautmanis of the Foundation is quoted in the Tribune that they “knew there were some things that were not in our control. We insist on going through the process with integrity and without rushing.” They have pledged that no tree removal or work on their intended 19.3 acre site (which is north of 62nd St.) will happen until all reviews and approvals are received

The timelines of the city’s final ordinance and the Protect Our Parks lawsuit vs. City of Chicago and Chicago Park District before U.S. District Judge John Blakey

• January 2015 City Council passed an ordinance allowing the city to enter into agreement to transfer a parcel in Jackson Park for subsequent transfer. It was not specific, for example not authorizing an agreement with a user or of course what such terms could be. Also, much including the proposed footprint changed afterwards. The state also passed an enabling amendment to the parks law.

• May 2018 a lawsuit was filed by Protect Our Parks organization.

• May 17 the Chicago Plan Commission heard and approved the OPC, road changes, a replacement track and more but did not include the specifics mentioned above.

May 22 the Zoning Committee, and May 23 City Council approved the same as the Plan Commission, the new turf track, road changes and more including preliminary (“Local Partner” declaration of what it wants to do was, inter alia, said needed for the federal reviews continuing although, but, one speculates, not necessarily to their conclusion.

• In May, the judge set a status hearing for the lawsuit for July.
City and park district filed requests stating grounds (May 30 and later) for extension to file (Rule 12(b) motions to dismiss. June 4, without dissent from the plaintiffs, the judge set July 9 for defendants filing and July 30 to file responses to motions to dismiss, August 6 for plaintiffs to respond and August 9 for a motion hearing.

• July 28 the defendants asked to push back this schedule until a complete ordinance is passed-- “after an ordinance governing significant aspects of the Obama Presidential Center’s Operation in Jackson Park is introduced to the City Council and the City Council chooses to enact it. The ordinance would provide the necessary legislative authorization for the City to enter into an agreement with the Foundation addressing how the foundation will be permitted to use the site, and would also approve the terms of the agreement, which would be attached and included into the ordinance.” They argued in effect that the lawsuit cannot be resolved until and unless there is an action- a law implementing what the lawsuit seeks to stop and that no damage will be done to the plaintiffs because no work can proceed on the site until after the ordinance and an agreement with the OP Foundation is in effect. (A complication is that work in the new track site the site would start before that redefinition of site is officially made—work has since started, see below.) July 9 the court granted defendants’ motion to strike August 9 hearing and set the status hearing (including for case management dates) as August 28, 9:45 a.m. at the Dirksen Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn, room 1203. Dates of course may change.

• August 14 – hearing on plaintiffs’ motion to delay or stop work and construction on the track site and move up hearings. (See outcome in next section on the Track and Field- holds/stays on trial and on track and field construction were lifted.)

• Status check schedule was set date for hearing (after the city has passed an ordinance, according to the judge), next full hearing date including on each party’s motion for summary dismissal, is October 28.

• September 12 plaintiffs filed "motion to correct the record" for "material misrepresentations" regarding connections between the track and the Obama Center re: February 26 agreement on funding from the Obama Foundation for the track, and following statements. September 28 the judge scolded both parties, allowed discovery to proceed, set Oct. 24 for next hearing.
A law professor weighs in on history and application of the public trust doctrine (see pdf doc.)

Track and Field south of 62nd St. Work was started the 4th weekend of July on a new, updated artificial track and field on the northeast corner of 63rd and Stony Island. Arrangements have been made with the sports teams that had been using the ball fields on that site—they’ve been using these all summer. The replacement track and field (but not the displaced ball fields) will be paid for by the Obama Foundation. The present track and field is presently in the OPC proposed site. The new site is proposed by the city to be not part of that site (see above). Plans were in motion (and are hard to stop without penalties and higher costs et al) before the review and approval processes were set back, so that summer break could be used to get a new track in place by fall for the teams and public to use without disruption. That exact and tight timetable had long been public. This is nevertheless irrelevant if the PD is correct that this remains their land with right of action and this is not land they intend to turn over to OPC where they said work will not start until all is resolved.) After the track and field work began and trees cut down, the plaintiffs to the lawsuit filed to stop the work. Note that this denied the sports teams and public their improved field and left a very visible part of the park messy and fenced.

The judge on August 14 did not grant plaintiff’s motion and lifted the temporary hold on construction and said he would see the parties back after the city passed the OPC ordinance and lease agreement and lifted the hold on the suit-- the parties can move forward with discovery, subpoenas, et al including how Jackson Park became the site for OPC, for the larger lawsuit. Not addressed were arguments that damage was done by trees removal (note- many of these were dead or dying) and possible damage to historic remains or their becoming less (note- the track is mostly above ground and historic inventory so far indicates what’s underground does not have historic value sufficient of excavation).

Statement in letter to the Sun-Times by CPD Director of Planning and Construction August 16 2018.

The Chicago Sun-Times editorial’s assertion that the Chicago Park District jumped the starter’s pistol in Jackson Park disregards the public process leading to the construction of the new track and field.
The Chicago Park District held numerous public hearings over the past year to gather community input and roll out plans to relocate the Jackson Park track and field. In fact, the District held nine public meetings as part of the South Lakefront Planning Process during which the project was discussed. The Park District also attended additional meetings organized by community stakeholders to keep residents informed of the projects timeline.
During these meetings, representative restated plans to complete the track and field in time to accommodate the local schools’ fall sports schedules. At no time did the Park District representatives indicate the project would be delayed, as evidenced by the Lakefront Protection application filed in 2 January approved in May, giving the district authority to proceed. Prior to filing the application, the district also mailed notices to all property owners within 500 feet of the site.
As recently as April 11, Park District representatives presented information about the Jackson P ark track and field, including a schedule to start construction this summer. Plans for the project were heard and approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and documents relating to the track and field, including a tree removal diagram were posted on the City’s website in May. Contrary to the Sun-times accusations, the Chicago Park District is not violating any federal processes, as this is a local project and is not subject to federal review.
Despite the Editorial Board’s criticism, this process is neither premature nor bad form. The Chicago Park District operated transparently and in a manner that demonstrates responsibility and respect for the community being served.

More about the track and to think about: First, this is an opportunity to get a renewed and better multi-sport field. It may not be completely ideal because the field will be wider and accommodate more sports and amenities but the site is a bit narrower creating a squeeze on layout partly to save trees around the perimeter (excepting numerous dead and dying ashes such as along Stony Island). Some replacement and new trees are in the drawings, but numerous trees in the center are lost. We should insist at the least that net lost trees be replaced promptly within the park. A possible ball field east of Cornell Drive has not been resolved yet. Another ball field needs to find a replacement site outside of Jackson Park, according to a federal review finding from the Urban Parks/National Parks Service. That will doubtless be part of the quest to assemble new parkland in Woodlawn (a suite of city-owned lots in the 64th-Kimbark area is said to be identified) that could also make up some acreage or green space lost to the OPC in Jackson Park.

In other news, the Foundation and the hired Lakeside Alliance general contractor and the hiring and training consultant firm and newly hired monitor are taking first steps in recruiting, training and developing a subcontracting and career workforce team that meet the promised high local and minority standards. Lakefront Alliance is now sited at Black United Fund of Illinois, 1750 E. 71st St. http://www.lakesidealliance.com. And, as reported in its just released Annual Report, the Foundation has started and participated in community, antiviolence, and civic leadership training initiatives and issued a broad commitment of promises document. Nevertheless a coalition seeks a community benefits agreement enforced by city ordinance that includes 30 percent affordable/low income set aside in new housing, a tax freeze, rent increase regulation, independent monitoring of jobs for OPC and other development, support for schools, a community investment fund, and means of addressing forces and practices, and lack of services, hurting communities.

OPC Museum Director puts out in August 2018 a request for memories,reflections, memorabilia, especially on the 2008 election. https://obama.org/History.

Annual Report released August 9 2018- to highlights here. Find the Report at http://obama.org.
To running highlights on fundraising More donor and funding details.

On August 9 2018 David Simas, Foundation CEO released the Foundation's first Annual Report. It has considerable detail but not everything the media and interested public would like to know, partly because as of that date the Foundation had not yet filed its federal 990, which will give the names and exact amounts from donors and other precise financials, and the Foundation website lists contributories and categories but not specifics. The opening statement said the Foundation is dedicated to transparency and to having a kind of service and leadership program never before seen. Below is what the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune gleaned from the Report. Numbers below are not strictly comparable (such as what has been spent since 2014) or reflective of current balances. The OPC campus alone is expected to cost about $350 M, and the Foundation not only has other costs but is expected to have a very major foundation. program. So, not half way there yet, it seems.

Executive statement by David Simas:

"As a start-up on the South Side with one of the world's most recognizable names on our door, we have a scrappy mindset and a broad ambition. We will have triumphs and we will have setbacks, but together we will create a movement of engaged citizens who are changing their communities, nations, and ultimately, their world."
"...Above all, it's a story about how the foundations inspiring and empowering people around the world to re-imagine their civic responsibilities, while equipping them with the tools, resources, and networks to bring about change.."

President Obama wrote the Foundation's work will not be easy or accomplished overnight."Lasting change takes patience and persistence. It takes resilience amidst setbacks and disappointments."

Comparison of donations 2014-17.
2017________________$232,592,542 (first year after the president was out of office and began active fundraising. Before leaving office he imposed a $1M cap on each donation.

Total to date_____________ $253,119,124
In 2017, $220.7 M rounded or 94.9% of donations were from individuals and $11.8 M from corporate adn foundation sources. Most gifts were not earmarked or restricted. Also, many givers were repeat donors.
In April 2018 the website listed 47 gifts of at least $1M. In July that had grown to 56 including Oprah Winfrey.

Total revenue for 2017 (including interest and other income) was $232.9 M.

2017 Expenses: $22.1 M Operating Expenses-
$12.5 Programs,
$5.3 Administrative (including offices in Hyde Park, D.C., and New York),
$4.2 Fundraising.
(There are 9 professional fundraisers and up to 6 others involved in the administrative side of fundraising and development. The Foundation has hired professional firms as well.)
$12.8 Design and (pre) Construction
$1.5 Professional Services consultant and local businesses locally--public relations, marketing, consulting firms, caterers, printers, contractors et al.

(In 2016 the Foundation spent most of its money on salaries, legal expenses, and marketing.)

Total assets December 31, 2016 $224.2 M

What it did: 8 public meetings, training evens in 3 cities, fellowship program for 20 social entrepreneurs and their projects.

What about diversity and inclusion? The Foundation touts this for program and for subcontracting and hiring. In the report is says a third of the leadership "identifies as a person of color, two-thirds are women, and among those we also have LGBTQ representation" although these are not documented. New hires at the top are expected to increase diversity vs. the 2016 6 of 8 listed in the 2016 990 filing being white.

May 7 Alderman Hairston held a ward meeting about and with the Obama Foundation and its design team, SmithGroup/JJR, Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Lakeside Alliance and other contractors and training/apprenticeship vendors at South Shore Cultural Center. This came between issuance of the Community Commitment document and the meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission about these matters in her ward and provided an opportunity for full expositions, updates and questions. Among the updates were the final plan for the new Track and Field, to be funded by the Obama Foundation, located south of the OPC site and to soon go out to bid and to be done this summer. (See features.)
Design changes: The playground and nature play area is moved from the far southeast corner to a more central location closer to Stony Island between the Forum and Library building rears. The southeast corner will now be a picnic grove.
The plaza space in front of the Forum will not be sunken, in another bow to Olmsted's idea of rising rather than dropping ground at the edges of parks-- this will also apply to the change to the recreation building. (Designers say they have considered partial landscaping further south in the site by Alfred Caldwell in the 1930s (?) that is mostly gone today-whether there will be a bow to it isn't know yet to this writer.)
The Recreation-Conference building will have a more conventionally shaped roof and an increase height to as much as 20 feet rather than 18. .
The 10-foot curb extension into Stony Island Ave. at the plaza is eliminated.
Details since- the Museum - The first level will deal with milestones in US history and figures in Chicago history related to the Obama story and the Obama's early life and careers. The second will examine Obama's two terms, the third aspects of life in the East and West Wings and being what being an African American family in the White House involved as well as the people behind the scenes that make a White House run, the fourth a replica of the Oval Office including replica of the historic Resolute Desk--this wil include virtual reality of activity in te Oval office and imagining yourself there. Relics from the Obamas will include his Nobel Peace Prize medal, sampling from the 10 letters from real people read daily, campaign memorabilia, and the First Lady from initiatives to fashion including how she used dress to send messages and inspire.

The commitment on Museum affordability (including free to low income) seemed firm although a suite of admission prices could not yet be given. [Not said, whether CPD will have approval rights on prices as for other museums in the parks.]
In a sign of readiness to partner, the exhibit team has moved into the Experimental Station.
Also noted (as at other recent meetings) that Cornell would remain 2-lane in each direction between 57th and 59th and safety enhancements were being sought for the unsignaled crosswalk south of 5800. In addition, signal coordination work for safety on Lake Shore Drive, Hayes Drive and connectors will start immediately.
More details were available on reconfiguration of Hayes Drive and Stony Island and the Hayes bike trails and (generously sized) underpasses. Since Hayes will be relocated at places and in some places at a distance from the bike/ped trails, it is likely more trees and shrubs will be lost.
It seemed more clear that the Midway section west of Stony Island will NOT be in the footprint although the Foundation will continue to offer assistance as wanted- latest idea from Park District to community is closer to what the PAC and the 1999 Framework Plan suggested, a garden and play space for children featuring "nature play space."

It was also noted that Alderman Hairston played a major role in the drafting and provisions of the Community Commitment Statement. One of the questioners, Jason Malone of KOCO thanked the Foundation for putting its commitments in writing, although there is a lot to be filled in, and asked whether the specifics in the later and in the Department of Transportation presentation regarding hiring, contractors, training, and more would be presented to the Plan Commission and City Council (answer by the parties and Ald. Hairston, yes). He asked about housing and displacement provisions, and the Ald. said some had not yet been worked out in legalese and some that the CBA Coalition asked were difficult or not possible under current laws, ordinances and regulations. She noted that the 5th Ward does not have the land for new housing with or without being at 30 percent affordable or subsidized, so CBA would have to talk with other aldermen. Among what is sought by the CBA Coalition are rent stabilization, property tax freeze, construction of new affordable housing with 30 percent low-income set aside, and a city ordinance regarding these, claiming the city and University of Chicago have to be bound because of "their history of pushing people out."


As part of its effort to give a piece of the benefit to the West Side including University of Illinois at Chicago, the Foundation in early May announced a community leaders conference and training workshop and fair at UIC June 19.

OPC ISSUES COMMUNITY COMMITMENT STATEMENT May 4 2018- read full, get link to feedback at https://www.obama.org/updates/communitycommitment/ Or read in pdf (some is abstracted).

As we embark on this important work, we will use every opportunity to strengthen the community around us. We have developed core principles that guide our work along with specific commitments we have made to our neighbors to date, which will live in a document that we will consistently update with new commitments so our neighbors and fellow Chicagoans can track our progress, hold us accountable, and offer feedback as we embark on this historic endeavor together.

The commitments by categories (paraphrased) are:
Construction Management Team (Lakeside Alliance) from the South Side.
150 million + contracting with local diverse subcontractors
Strengthen the south side small business corridor
Paid internships for South Side high school students
Free leadership training for young emerging leaders on the South Side
Most of the campus will be free and open to the public
Building a point of pride- a world-class cultural institution that promotes the legacy of the South Side
A place to come together from afterschool programming to lectures, arts, sports, community engagement and more
Jobs engine for underrepresented populations, recruiting and building a diverse workforce pipeline

Guiding Principles

We will inspire, train, and elevate the next generation of civic leaders in underserved neighborhoods across Chicago and around the world to be the change they want to see in their communities.

We will partner with and strengthen existing community-based organizations.

We will serve as an economic engine for the South Side, attracting private investment, strengthening the local economic climate, and creating shared prosperity to help our neighbors build wealth.

We will embrace meaningful diversity and inclusion, focusing on engaging the surrounding community, and South and West Side neighbors alongside other underrepresented populations, including returning citizens, opportunity youth, women, members of the LGBTQ community, veterans, and people with disabilities.

We will be a resource to the communities surrounding the OPC, providing accessible space to gather, educate, socialize and entertain.

We will be careful stewards of the land, honoring the rich history of Jackson Park and prioritizing the preservation of the parkland in our design and operations.

We will nurture curious minds, educating our youth and community members to tackle the challenges of our time.

We will use our leverage and the power of the Obama name to bring resources to our community to address comprehensive needs of economic development. We will seek to build economic opportunity by protecting against unwanted displacement, helping create infrastructure improvements, and attracting additional investment to the area.

Multipage list of commitments can be viewed. Although highly detailed and bold, it will require a lot of filling in. And it may be a basis for negotiating or give and take. Comment opportunities are presented at its end. Read the whole in https://www.obama.org/updates/communitycommitment/, or read the document here in pdf. There is also a printout available from the Foundation.

Of course, gods or demons are in details, and this has much to fill in and fund. And,of course, it is not a "contract". Funding may be a key to this dance-- clearly the Foundation prefers to choose which nonprofits (such a for mentoring, antiviolence, economic development, partners) it wishes to fund or act as conduits, rather than groups it might have to negotiate with under a CBA. This could be, however a first gamut in a dance that could end with some kind of negotiation. Among the groups it has chosen to work through are the Emerald South Economic Development Collaboration co-chaired by Anne Duncan for the broader benefits and My Brother's Keeper for action with youth.

Disagreement and questions about the land trade and public access. Another factor is that the document is of course intended in part to impress the Plan Commission and other review agencies. So the document points to its, likely controversial, take that it is using for buildings only 2.6 acres of its 19.3 acre footprint with 1.6 of the 2.6 having accessible landscaped roofs that blend into natural and park landscaping. The Foundation claims Cornell Drive removal as a giveback to parkland, as well as the roofs and landscaped grounds. The statement does not make or discuss a commitment regarding replacement parks in Woodlawn including for a ballfield lost to Jackson Park that the National Parks Service says has to be replaced or, as many have asked, for a total giveback of all the 19.3 acres and more. (CPD Superintendent Kelly at the May 9 Board of Commissioners meeting said it has been difficult to identify available parcels in Woodlawn large and contiguous enough to assemble in to a park that could include ballfield(s).
The counting of returned parkland was immediately pounced upon by Friends of the Parks and others as creating inconsistencies and using dubious definitions of quality parkland. Specifics include calculation of acres owed and what is given back, that Cornell Drive is already a part of the park and its greening is not addition if you don't subtract, for example the concrete plaza, whether the grounds and especially the buildings will be as accessible as other parklands (counter: Museum of Science and Industry and La Rabida Hospital are not accessible to the public on the same basis either), and who controls permitting. The city says there will be 4.6 acres of new open space and the "land surrounding the OPC buildings wil be treated as public parkland...This PUBLIC ACCESS REQUIREMENT WILL ALSO BE INCLUDD INTHE GOUND LEASE..." (Grant Klinzman). Federal review may settle the question.

Alderman Hairston played a major role in the drafting and provisions of the Community Commitment Statement. One of the questioners, Jason Malone of KOCO thanked the Foundation for putting its commitments in writing, although there is a lot to be filled in, and asked whether the specifics in the later and in the Department of Transportation presentation regarding hiring, contractors, training, and more would be presented to the Plan Commission and City Council (answer by the parties and Ald. Hairston, yes). He asked about housing and displacement provisions, and teh Ald. said some had not yet been worked out in legalese and some that the CBA Coalition asked were difficult or not possible under current laws, ordinances and regulations. She noted that the 5th Ward does not have the land for new housing with or without being at 30 percent affordable or subsidized, so CBA would have to talk with other aldermen.

What may be missing will be pointed out by many soon enough.
Press and park group reaction seemed to mostly focus on how parkland that is to gained or lost is defined and counted, affecting whether the plan is "park positive."

Highlights of what's in the suite of commitments include items noted by Lynn Sweet in her May 5 article in the Sun-Times and others such as that the Women's Garden will have improved full accessibility and that all is being designed for universal access and at least LEED4 Platinum standards.

Gary Ossewaarde is among those who submitted written comments:

Letter to the Obama Foundation re: Community Commitment and Information Desired from the Foundation
By Gary M. Ossewaarde
May 7, 2018
I am secretary of the Jackson Park Advisory Council and active on parks in several organizations, and an active observer and commenter throughout the planning and review process for the OPC, but am writing on my own.

Let me commend the Foundation on a very bold and comprehensive agenda, and I look forward to learning of and input into refinements and implementation strategies as the process continues. Of course, the fundamental contention is likely to be over selection and funding of organizations that are to participate in achieving the goals and in what ways this will be collaborative. Otherwise, I will concentrate only on what I consider to gaps or weaknesses in the statement and on information I think the community and the reviewing agencies need next.

The assumptions about what is quality parkland and what is to counted lost or gained without inconsistencies is the weakest section, and frankly the section on which sincere park advocates and the media ,inter alia will focus. For example, I think, but others do not, that removal of trafficked Cornell can greatly enhance park quality- pleas show that more clearly.
The commitment should be to continue to work with the Park District, the community, and involved stakeholders to increase parkland and recreational space in the park and the number of quality parks nearby.

The foundation needs to state exactly what it expects be in the lease footprint, especially if that means the footprint may be smaller or larger than 19.3 acres – presumably that south of 62nd St. is to be dropped, but in that north of 60th St. added? Will the Midway section west of Stony Island be dropped from the lease space, and if not, what is the commitment, if any of the Foundation to improvements there (and, even if not,) for the Women’s Bench?
I commend you for commitment to the Women’s Garden improved access, rehabilitation, and acknowledgment, important to many community organizations and preservationists.

We need a commitment to responsible tree removal and replacement standards and if possible retention of exceptional trees or groupings (including by the Women’s Garden) incorporated into the new landscaping. I commend plans or water retention and management.

We need to see comprehensive shadow studies and whether it is possible within objectives to proportionally shrink the tower building and/or make it visually less contrasting.

We need as soon as practical some financials—what the physical project and programming (including for the communities, mentoring, career-creation, and civic training) may cost and about funding and timeline. We need to hear something from Emerald Green about their plans.

We need details on commitments partnering with the neighboring schools.

And finally, a stronger commitment to affordability in the museum, including some kind of flex-pass with the other Museum Campus South museums and to a trolley or other area transport system. Also a clear guarantees that he campus will stay open to the public per other parks.

May 3 Mike S presents, answers questions at HPKCC board meeting

Mike Strautmanis and team presented overall design and program and recent changes for the OPC. The plans for the tower for now are as they have been, c235 feet high with lower levels and top floors (and the rest of the OPC) free and open to the public. The focus of design is on openness and civic engagement including encouragement to enjoy by kids, youth and families and encouraging them to in turn bleed into the neighborhoods and other amenities as a larger campus.

The CPL branch library will be smaller than most, but will share space in the library building with spaces under OPC control. He noted that if the library building had been used as originally planned for archives, it would have had limited access , high security and effectively dead as far the public was concerned.

He confirmed that the number of trees to be removed and replaced (with more) in the Jackson Park footprint is about 500. Some of these are diseased and would be lost anyway. (ed- Other estimates of up to 2,400 to be lost likely included along roadways and the golf). He acknowledged that trees take a long time to spread out and mature. He stressed that nature and landscape experts designed the space to be almost all non-structure, especially on the surface with the roofs and to bleed into the natural and landscaped parts of the park. He asserted the plans add parkland. The teaching gardens are very important as are test kitchens, playgrounds, picnic and open areas.

They have no designs or plan for anything on the Midway at present and will work with the PAC and CPD/DOP planning process to come up with ideas et al if invited. He pledged that the Women's Garden would have full and improved access including for persons with disabilities. The Women's Bench needs to be fixed. He did not pledge funds.

Museum- central part of the building will be the only one with ticketed and priced entry. Prices have not been decided but would likely be very low to local residents. There will be lots of free meeting spaces in the library, museum etc. - including for organizations like HPKCC.

ADA universal design and LEED4 platinum standards will be used.

The parking garage may be 1 or 2 stories but designed to be open, lighted, safe, and friendly. Entry/access ill be on Stony Island at about 62nd St. CDOT has determined that the traffic can be handled with the new configurations.

There will be many volunteer opportunities, collaborations with DuSable Museum, Little Black Pearl, other Museum Campus South institutions, schools including high schools, especially Hyde Park High. They intend to work with groups who are doing things in and for the community and to share, not supersede. Training for jobs and careers and for civic activism is very important.

Most of the Obama initiatives from White House days were shut down-- there will be no "shadow presidency." However, My Brother's Keeper and Let Girls Learn continue (the former at least folded into the Foundation).

HPKCC brought up the need for things for teens to do. Mike pointed to the many programs and mentoring's, the recreational facility.

He concluded that the character of the enterprise will change once they have the approvals, allowing plans to become solid and real, and pledged to come back at the end of the year. He said a letter of support would be welcome. The president referred to the HPKCC letter of a couple years ago welcoming the OPC to the South Side and said a different letter, if proposed could not be ready in the short time frame before the Plan Commission hearing.

May 2 Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times detailed a tentative agreement/letter of intent (released in a statement by the Mayor) between OPL and Chicago Public Library for a
branch of the Chicago Public Library to be housed in the Library building of the Obama Presidential Center.
CPL would occupy about 5,000 square feet in the 50,000 foot building, paying no rent but paying its share of maintenance costs. The initial lease period is for seven years. Mayor Emanuel said, "In the spirit of Barack and Michelle Obama, this branch will serve as a neighborhood anchor with 21st century learning opportunities and shared spaces that will bring together community residents to gather, share and succeed for generations to come."
The negotiations took a while, as would be expected when multiple long term commitments and expenses as well as construction and start up costs are involved. The impetus to agree now likely includes that the OPS goes before the Plan Commission May 17 and City Council the next week. The MOU, building, lease, and budget approval have to go before City Council at a later date as the CPL board does not have authority to approve branches, buildings et al, and management of the CPL branch will be under Fleet and Facilities department.
Although this library building will not hold the presidential archives (which are at a NARA facility in Hoffman Estates and are not presently accessible and will not be housed in the OPC, and a final agreement between OPC and NARA has yet to be worked out- much of this will be digitalized and online but the Obama Foundation is expected not be responsible for creating an endowment for the archives themselves. Nevertheless, envisioned for the branch according to CPL commissioner Bannon is a special Obama collection focusing on the life and legacy President Obama. Also, there will be an Obama Reading Room that will be under management of the OPC. Bannon told the Sun-Times,"We envision a close collaboration with the Center. It's a pretty exceptional opportunity for us." Indeed, there may be joint fundraising. No naming decisions so far!

The branch will be designed according to CPL specifications including flexspace (such as the stacks being on rollers-- gatherings are expected). Branch programming will include storytimes, book discussions, and an emphasis on civic engagement. Staff and programs will serve all ages including job and opportunity seekers. There will be eight full time core staff. Possibly some staffing costs may be covered by the Foundation or the Public Library Foundation. CPL paid staffers will need OPC permission to program there.
Cost of purchase of the basic collection (fiction and nonfiction for all age groups) is expected to cost $150,000-200,000.

ROADS REDUX. In early May Jackson Park Watch issued a statement citing a study it commissioned from raSmith regarding roadway proposed changes, needs and effects. The report and article in the Herald online of May 10. 2018 are below.

The essence is that proposed is only narrowing to 4 lanes on Cornell, support the widening of Lake Shore Drive, want to keep Hayes the same, and oppose widening of Stony Island and closing of Marquette Drive.

Reactions online have varied widely, strongly for and against. Members from JPAC who have spoken to us have said they have confidence in the CDOT professional studies and its proposed solutions rather than in an outside consultant hired by a community group with a position to support. One said a reading of the raSmith prospectus seems to show bias toward a result and that the Foundation or CDOT should issue a response. Jackson Park Highlands president Russell Pike wrote strongly in favor of the road closures and in opposition to the raSmith study, citing safety as well as asserting necessity for and of the OPC.

JPAC takes. (ed.- JPAC's committees will continue to review the proposals, studies, and counter-studies in recommending approval or suggesting changes to plans. A resolution by the golf and park improvements committee supported the infrastructure proposals, needed in our community.)


Dear Members of The Chicago Plan Commission:
I am a Southside Hyde Park working mom, grandmother,Jackson Park community resident since 1969 and Jackson Park Advisory Council Volunteer since 1983, and JPAC President since 2010. My children and grandchildren grew up playing in Jackson Park, and then volunteering in the park, giving back to their community.
I have volunteered in many park related community organizations as an event leader, officer, teacher, youth soccer coach, field painter, referee, director, commissioner, parenting coach and mentor, and rape and abused women's counselor, park gardener, park tour guide and park volunteer workday organizer. i represent Jackson Park at "people in the park" Park Board sessions, and speak at most of the monthly Chicago Park District Board Meetings. I spend 20-30 hours in Jackson Park each week leading park tours for Chicago and International visitors, teaching high school and college group's the park's history and ecology , and leading group park workdays. I daily photograph and report damage, criminal activity, or needed repairs .to the appropriate park or police or city department. I am part of an awesome team of JPAC 's positive volunteers who work together to make change and give back to our diverse community .
Our JPAC volunteers support and assist the Fieldhouse staff with programs for our kids. Our JPAC team volunteers replant, repair, and revitalize our Jackson Park green and blue recreational areas and train community members to assist and join our team.

So we at JPAC, are frustrated when a recently formed computer internet blog group called Jackson Park Watch is given credibility by the press as the (naysayers) voice of our ethnically, economically and age diverse Jackson Park community. JPW is not representative of the thousands of parents and children playing each day on our park sports and recreation teams and who are the primary users of Jackson Park . JPW has been vocally against every positive change in the park, unless it was THEIR idea. JPAC has organized our diverse community members to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity during the last two years to have their voices heard and to participate in the South Lakefront Framework Plan and Obama Center And CDOT road planning meetings where their ideas and suggestions were included in the plan.. The Chicago Park District, CDOT, and the Obama Foundation have requested and incorporated diverse community ideas and suggestions at hundreds of Public Meetings and Community Stake Holders Meetings over the past two years. JPW had the opportunity to have their ideas and suggestions included in this plan.
It is puzzling that, JPW, who contributed their plans and ideas to every step of the community planning process , NOW opposes the plan that they had the opportunity to develop along WITH rest of our diverse community members. One has to ask if JPW's now repeated requests for more studies and more data are Delaying Tactics designed to roadblock and stop the community's revitalization plan for our park. . We hoped they would support the plan developed by community members ideas and vision.
We at JPAC, since 1983, have been doing the "hands on "work of surveying and finding out the community needs, and presenting them to
the Park District, then creating or finding new programs to meet those needs, and involving the community in improving Jackson Park through POSITIVE park initiatives . We truly believe that "GREAT PARKS MAKE GREAT COMMUNITIES" . These presented plans today, will economically and socially revitalize our communities. JPAC today represents the majority of our diverse South Shore, Woodlawn, and Hyde Park Communities that SUPPORT this Park District South Lakefront Framework Plan, the CDOT Plan, and OBAMA Foundation Plan These were planned by our TEAM of diverse community members, (not just the vocal few) , The CDOT team, The Obama Foundation team , and The Chicago Park District Planning Team . We proudly being present our teams' plans for approval to the Chicago Plan Commission on May 17th.
Thank You, for this once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of our Jackson Park kids and our diverse community!

Louise McCurry,
President of our awesome JPAC Team

She said separately, "Brenda and Margaret...represent themselves and not our park community [a]nd all the volunteers of Jackson Park. Closing Cornell will be safer for drivers- Olmsted built it as a one lane carriage path with speeds of 5 MPH and not a Six lane expressway with speeds reaching 50 mph in the middle of our children's playing fields. The Obama Center will be one more part of beautiful park land with children's play areas, gardens, sports gyms and outdoor recreational areas, and blocks of biking ADA accessible walking paths, sledding areas, and nature play areas. Most of the main building will be open to the public including the scenic top floor which will have views of the lake to the east and Washington Park to the West. Finally it will have a public library and free meeting rooms for our community organizations.
Closing Marquette (which bisects our golf course and is one of six roads golfers must cross in golfing our 18 hole Jackson Park Golf Course) protects our bikers, walkers, and golfers from being hit by speeding cars driving through the middle of our Park golf course."

Jerry Levy, Jackson Park steward and chair of its committee on the proposals, said "Who is the planning commission going to listen to. One is a study and plan prepared by the CDOT with all of their knowledge of the issues in their jurisdiction or a plan by a paid unvetted unknown person hired by those who have constantly opposed every proposed change in JP."

Gary Ossewaarde says, The gains for the park environment, safety, and connectivity, for users and holistic desirable traffic improvements make the changes worthwhile and a good balance against keeping a convenience to the automobile--drivers will find ways around drawbacks to their commute in any case. Having been embarrassed myself by a "third party" review study I was associated with, I give more credence to CDOT and their experience on the ground and their expertise than to a commissioned study by a group seeking to bolster a point of view. Whether or not the Center can or would go forward keeping Cornell is irrelevant. In any case, I prefer big plans (bold or at least optimizing) over least-you-can-get-away-with. The object of the JPW study seems to be to delay and delay. People may wish to ask JPW their reasons for that, some of which may have nothing to do with making a good park or community.

At least two JPAC members and a one-time member continue propose tunnelizing Cornell Drive.

Fran Vandervoort points out that Olmsted was a flexible man who wanted a park that would promote democratic interaction and rejuvenation with active and passive spaces, and that he designed Cornell as a carriage drive, not a wide auto speedway. She points to similar views of Victoria Ranney.

MAY 10, 2018
Local group asks plan commission to reject Obama Center ordinance [at this time]

Herald Staff Report

Jackson Park Watch, today, sent a request to the Chicago Plan Commission to reject the applications for road and zoning changes in Jackson Park for construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

The request, sent in advance of the Plan Commission’s May 17meeting, contained a new road study commissioned by the Watch organization from raSmith, a national engineering consulting firm. The study suggests that the controversial closing of Cornell Drive is not necessary and that much of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s study of the traffic problems created by the Obama Center is flawed.

Jackson Park Watch has not opposed the construction of the Presidential Center in the Park but has taken issue with, what it describes as, the lack of community input and the lack of an orderly process. The organization points out to the Plan Commission that it is being asked to approve the plans but there is no version of the lease from the Park District to the Obama Center for the occupied 20 acres of park, which would explain what the public’s rights at the site will be.

Jackson Park Watch is an Illinois Not for Profit Corporation. Its founders, Hyde Parkers Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid, describe the Watch as a “virtual” organization. They state that “Jackson Park Watch is a virtual community organization committed to advancing community input, transparency and comprehensive planning in all major decisions concerning Jackson Park. Started in fall 2015, when vague plans advanced by Project 120 for the Park prompted many concerns in the community, we raise questions, do research, and share what we learn through our periodic update, distributed broadly [by] e-mail.”

It is on the web where its members sign up and receive reports about the Park.

The press release put out today says:

“The raSmith study identifies gaps and inadequacies in the transportation analysis that underlies the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) plan for major road changes in Jackson Park, including:

Traffic Diversions: Inadequate information on how much traffic would or could be diverted by the closure of Cornell Drive; absence of information as to whether intersections outside of the study area were evaluated to ensure they could accommodate additional diverted traffic.
Estimates of traffic volume: The impact of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) on traffic volume appears to be understated.
Impact on parking: Many existing parking spots on the south side of the park are to be eliminated, but the limited number of replacement parking spots are on the north side of the Park.
Stony Island Avenue: CDOT’s proposed changes to Stony Island Avenue appear to lack holistic approach in addressing such issues as traffic flows and vehicular and pedestrian safety features.
Traffic impacts at the south end of the Park: The CDOT plan fails to discuss impacts to 67th Street despite a projected traffic increase of 25-30 percent.

raSmith developed an Alternative Transportation Concept Plan based on the traffic data and capacity assumptions found in the Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants report used by CDOT for its transportation plan. Highlights of the alternative plan include:

Keep Cornell Drive open; narrow it to four-lanes throughout Jackson Park.
Keep the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) on the original site designated in Jackson Park – between 60th and 63rd Streets, Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive.
Preserve the East Bound segment of the Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive, maintaining traffic flow and the Olmsted design.
No need to widen Stony Island Avenue for vehicular capacity
Keep Hayes Drive as is; allow parking.
Keep Marquette Drive open; allow parking.
Add an additional South Bound lane on S. Lake Shore Drive from 57th Drive to 63rd St., as CDOT proposed, and extend it to Marquette Drive to facilitate southbound traffic flow.

The raSmith study was delivered to Chicago Plan Commission members this morning by Jackson Park Watch in preparation for the May 17 Plan Commission hearing on the CDOT transportation plan and on the Obama Foundation applications to construct the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

The informational packet submitted by JPW also included a summary of concerns about gaps and flaws in both the CDOT and Obama Foundation applications and an analysis of the CDOT application under the Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance. JPW called on the Plan Commission to reject the CDOT application and to delay action on the Obama Foundation applications until additional information is available. All of these materials are attached.

JPW co-president Margaret Schmid said, “In light of these study results, we call for a new discussion about the OPC-related road changes in Jackson Park. We recently learned from OPC officials that the OPC will be constructed in Jackson Park even if Cornell Drive is kept open. With that in mind, it is time to consider how best to house the OPC in Jackson Park while at the same time preserving the Olmsted design of this historic park, avoiding unnecessary taxpayer expenditures, and taking community opinion more fully into consideration. Our traffic report offers an alternative that merits discussion. There is a better way.”

Co-president Brenda Nelms noted, “ An important park-related benefit of keeping Cornell Drive open is the buffer it would provide between the crowded and active spaces the Obama Foundation envisions for its site and the calm, natural character of the Park itself. At the same time, the Obama Foundation’s desire to closely connect the OPC with Jackson Park, including the Museum of Science and Industry, could be accommodated in numerous ways, including innovative pedestrian bridges, underpasses, or improved pedestrian crossings.”

The following documents were submitted to the Chicago plan commission [and the links are available by going to www.hpherald.com/]:

The reSmith Jackson Park review with map.

Jackson Park Watch Statement to the Chicago Plan Commission.

Jackson Park Watch Analysis of the compliance of the Chicago Department of Transportation application with the Lakefront Protection Ordinance."

Obama Presidential Center. March 21. Two very different vetting's were held, one by the Foundation Feb. 27, and a symposium March 7 at U of C where speakers and citizens alike set forth and challenged very different perspectives and information.
Meanwhile, reaching out to potential builders, vendors, and workers has begun with fairs and “Meet Lakeside Alliance” open houses.
Closing of Cornell Drive remains a contentious issue. A widely proposed solution of reducing to one lane maybe with some physical narrowing with a trail on the side seems to this writer problematic—it keeps heavy traffic, air and noise pollution and runoff into the lagoons—next to the natural area, and keeps the park cut into sections while not giving substantially better and peaceful circulation and expansion of nature and landscape. This writer also wonders why Cornell must carry traffic to be in keeping with Olmsted’s design while the trail across the Darrow bridge (as generally agreed at open meetings)) should not although in the past it did carry traffic.
Initiatives for youth and future leaders
My Brother’s Keeper and the Obama Foundation, of which MBK is a part), have appeal or applications for grants to organizations mentoring youth, promoting violence reduction, and youth service and training. Also available are college scholarships for a large new academic division in the U of C Harris School.

March 22 the Foundation and the Urban Alliance announced at Hyde Park Career Academy creation of the Obama Youth Jobs Corps (OYJC). The Urban Alliance is a nonprofit that links underrepresented or economically disadvantaged youth with professional skills. td raining, work experience and mentorship. The goals of the program for South Side youth is skills, experience, and (the often missing key) exposure in real world career settings. Sophomores will have five professional development/workforce tdrai9nng classes. Juniors study professional development and financial literacy and post-school planning. Seniors are paired with partnering businesses in paid internships and mentoring. Eligible in the pilot year: students of Hyde Park High, Kenwood, and Little Black Pearl. Business partners announced are Ariel Investments, Bank of America, Hyatt, Pritzker Foundation, and University of Chicago. The Foundation has 4 interns.

February 25, 2018 the Obama Foundation division My Brother's Keeper announced competition for $500,000 in grants to nonprofits (including a set of small $50,000 mini-grants) for programs to mentor young men and for antiviolence programs. Details will be released in March. The Foundation is especially interested in growing he pipeline of mentors working on impactful programs for boys and young men of color, according to a release quoted by Lyn Sweet in the Sun-Times.
Also, the Foundation in a $4M Foundation Scholars Program, the Foundation is teaming up with the University of Chicago's Harris School of Policy to offer competitive one-year graduate fellowships for emerging leaders in fighting crime and violence. $1M is earmarked for Chicago. Students will come from around the world. Applications are due April 10 2018. The OF will pay tuition (c$47, 000) and housing and travel; expenses for about 25. The UC will control admissions and provide curriculum. The degree will be MA in International Planning and Development. The program will include outside the classroom experiences including in New York and D.C.


February 14 2018 the Park District Board of Commissioners approved Supt. Kelly negotiating mutual transfer of c. 6 acres to the city and reception of 8 acres from the city for conversion of parkland to widened roadways and roadway to parkland in conjunction with the OPC and golf reconstruction respectively. This would be a net park gain of about 2 acres, partially answering one question about quid pro quos. Cost was said by Kelly to be $160 million. The transfers once negotiated and signed be effective regardless of whether the two projects pass reviews and approvals and whether road construction/destruction are actually done. the roads and exchanges involved, according to February 16 2018 Sun-Times, are to the city for widening roadways:
Lands west of Lake Shore Drive from 57th to Hayes
Lands east of Stony Island from westbound Midway Plaisance to 67th.
Lands south of westbound Midway Plaisance from Stony Island to Cornell
Certain lands at the Hayes-Richards intersection (Golden Lady), Hayes-Lake Shore Drive intersection, and Hayes Cornell intersection.
To the park district:
Cornell Drive from approximately 62nd Street south to Hayes Drive, Marquette Drive Stony Island Avenue to Richards Drive and the northbound lanes of Cornell Drive from approximately 67th Street to approximately 64th Street.
Additionally, portions of existing roadway will be converted to parkland in the area of Hayes-Richards and Hayes-63rd-Cornell intersections.
Note that this does not include the portions of Cornell and eastbound Midway Plaisance east of Stony Island that are in the land already to be leased and transferred to the Obama Foundation and would presumably be a matter of cost negotiation between the city and the OPC.
c February 23 Mayor Emanuel and CDOT released an estimate of total costs for all the roadwork for Jackson Park and the Cultural Center- $175 million (which could go higher if Hayes Drive is given a second underpass) and also traffic and related studies. The studies results are likely to be challenged, and the environmental and historical impacts Section 106 study is still quite a ways from completion. The changes are likely to be incorporated in the next consolidated South Lakefront Plan draft.
Hyde Park Historical Society's letter to Section 196 prefers a narrowing of Cornell Drive at the Center to one lane in each direction, returning that part of the park to, in their view, to Olmsted's original design of a carriage path. Jackson Park Watch has issued diverging statements, one opposing reductions (and allowing parking) from 57th to 59th and another supporting the Historical Society position. Other groups strongly support the changes citing inter alia safety and connectivity including for bicyclists and pedestrians in the park and control of water runoff throughout the park. Not addressed in plans and discussions is perhaps a majority of paths and trails throughout the park that are in deteriorated condition.
Feb. 27 Governor Rauner supported (without giving numbers) Emanuel's viewpoint that the state should provide a major portion of the funding. The Democratic state legislative leaders are also on board.

The Foundation January 12 2018 added a ground level storefront multipurpose space, 1538 E. 53rd St. (at Lake Park in Harper Court office building, east of Starbucks.) Its offices in 5235 S. Harper Court 11th floor are expected to remain.

January 4 2017 the Foundation awarded to a collective management over construction- valued at $300M+, to five mostly African-American firms under the name of Lakeside Alliance. (51 percent of business will go to the 4 minority firms). The Foundation spent several months examining the record and ability of firms answering its RFP to determine if they could and would commit to true inclusive hiring, training, retaining diverse, local area personnel and subcontractors and vendors. The Foundation says it is committed to not only having such and elevating their work portfolios and ability to get such contracts, have a real positive impact in the area in this regard, and also setting a standard in accord with the Foundation's mission.
The firms, known as the Lakeside Alliance, are Turner Construction Company (lead), Powers and Sons, UJAMAA, Brown and Momen, and Safeway. the selection of Lakeside met with universal praise (including groups generally critcal of the OPC and Foundation) except for a coalition of Hispanic contractors (HICIA) who felt left out.

The Foundation is hiring an internal diversity controller. Michael Strautmanis told the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January 2018, "I want someone accountable to President Obama, supervising his process, because I believe he has the highest standards for minority participation." David Simas, CEO, added "We will develop a transparency process." Note that Obama himself told a public meeting that he will not sign a community benefits agreement.

February 27 the Foundation announced it will give the park district $3.5 million toward the replacement artificial track and field. This will likely to be built in the 6200 bock of S. Stony Island on the east side, pending decisions for the consolidated South Lakefront Plan and environmental/historic impact studies. The park district says this wil allow completion of the track before teh OPC construction starts. The city says changes on Hayes and LSD (maybe Stony> will be done before Cornell is closed.
See Tribune online incl. latest design rendering, discussion of roadway and other controversies, and announcement of the gift for the track-
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-obama-presidential-center-20180227-story.html See below.

January 8, 2018 the Foundation announced that will build the parking garage will be built underground in its Jackson Park site rather than seek public land on the Midway for a garage.

Foundation says the "preliminaries are over":
Visit the excellent and thorough coverage article, January 17, 2017 by Tonia Hill in the Hyde Park Herald. Use the link below or see it in pdf here.

January 10 2018, the Foundation submitted tweaked plans for the first time officially to the Chicago Plan Commission for review then likely hearing and vote in Spring 2018. The filing is for approval to build it under the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance. "Included in [the filing] will be information that's necessary to meet the requirements of the Lakefront Protection Ordinance" Michael Strautmanis is quoted in the Hyde Park Herald (Tonia Hill). The LPO requires review by the Plan Commission to see that a project within a certain distance from the Lake is in compliance with a set of requirements and prohibitions. The three filing entities (OF, CPD, and CDOT) will be meeting with the Commission staff and ultimately there will be a recommendation that will be taken up by the Commission in a public meeting/hearing. The Foundation has said it will hold public meetings in the next few weeks on its plan and design. The design is to be introduced at City Council January 17. Strautmanis summarized as to the Herald of January 17: "We have a sense of urgency...[from the foundation and the community-] we know people want to get this project moving." "Even though we talked about looking to submit this by the end of the year, we weren't ready. There were still some design decisions that needed to be made [parking was one]. We are at the stage now where we are ready to move forward.
The Foundation also filed for rezoning from Parkland to Planned Development Institutional.

They also released a new video January 9 that includes a model of the new concept. The Foundation hired the law firm Neal & Leroy to handle the city filings, vetting's and hearings.

February 14 Parks Sup. Kelly was given permission to negotiate with the city over land transfer (8 for 6 acres) for highway changes in connection with the Center and the golf course.

February 23 the city announced the estimated cost of its conceptual road changes, which it want to have underway by early 2019.
CDOT and the city offered its first estimate of the cost of the proposed road changes, $175 M. This may be higher if a second Hayes Dr. underpass is added. The city also released traffic related studies on which is bases its conclusion of non-adverse effects. A net loss of c. 236 parking spaces is also shown. Revealed earlier is decision to seek conversion of Cornell 59th to 57th to one lane in each direction. The city may seek a good part of the money from the state, noting state heavy support for the Lincoln Library in Springfield (also not part of the federal system). The OPC is expected to cost $300- 500M

So there is now a design benchmark- the preliminary phase is over, although still lacking many details and still subject to change. And review both as part of the Section 106 / NEPA Environmental Review (see our page on this) (through Fall 2018) and public and stakeholder vetting as part of an updated South Lakefront Framework Plan (likely late spring 2018) continues. Strautmanis told the Herald, "The review processes inform each other and give the opportunity for robust public participation." Strautmanis added that the President and First Lady took a careful look at all sites before choosing Jackson Park. "We're very confident that this is the best site for the Obama Presidential Center and we've heard overwhelmingly positive input about that.... We will be sure to work with the city." Design team member Dina Griffin told the Herald, "we consider this project a giving process because we're trying to improve whereever the building is built. We feel that the best benefit and the best improvement will happen at that location." Changes in this iteration include the moving of the parking garage (with entry and exit on the east side of Stony Island at 61st), changes to the shape, height and footprint of the Museum and its interior flow, keeping the Perennial Garden as Women's Garden at the north end of the site, and spreading out of play and other open land uses. Long since removed are overpasses at Stony Island and to Wooded Island. Hope is to break ground in late 2018 and open in 2021.

Track and Field. The Park District was able to file with the Plan Commission for a replacement new track and field on land the Foundation will not be using (because in the OPC Plan Commission filing the site is 59th-62nd, not 60th-63rd, so the proposed site for the track and field is outside the site). The Park District committed to the replacement- before the OPC work starts-- from as soon as Jackson Park was selected for the OPC, and was asked by JPAC and many others from the beginning as a precondition. There are still alternatives for the t & f design (including which sports in the center) in the scenarios for a new South Lakefront Plan that have choices for replacement of the ball fields the track will displace. (Coaches and youth have weighed in on the choices and made other suggestions.)
The proposal filed is for an artificial multi-use field surrounded by a new 8-lane 400-meter rubber surface running track. Included in the track are a long jump pit and high jump. The field sports to be accommodated are football, soccer, and lacrosse.
The Park District in a release said about the filing that this is because it is "necessary to replace the current track and field that will be relocated as part of the establishment of the Obama Presidential Center within another area of Jackson Park." (Return to 2018 Updates- May 7.)

And CDOT filed its plans for roadway closures and changes as tweaked after moving of the garage. Other than that, and as below, the plans are essentially as set forth from mid 2017 forward. Added are two options, or possibly both, additional underpasses at Hayes Drive. Preferred presently by the Park District and stakeholder comments this writer knows about (especially if a new fieldhouse just south of Hayes is the final Lakefront Plan recommendation) is by Cornell Drive. The other by Richards Drive at the Statue of the Republic (Golden Lady), located so as to accommodate should the statue be recommended for movement to the edge of the Inner Harbor- but or to reach the statue better if it's left where is. The underpasses primary purpose would seem to be to provide access across a busier Hayes Drive (due to Cornell closure) between the golf driving range and the golf course and the clubhouses with or without golf consolidation. (Closure of Cornell Drive was originally suggested in the U of C proposal and was in the presentation model of May 2016.) According to CDOT's statement, its application includes "proposed roadway improvements to support the overall vision for Jackson Park and the development of the Obama Presidential Center."
the filing has description of each change including for roads, intersections, pedestrian and bicycle changes and improvements, signal and lighting upgrades, and an estimated timeline for the work- from early 2019 through 2020. Unclear is whether there is any estimate of costs and sources of funding.
Mayor Emanuel at the Jan. 17 2017 Council meeting made it clear he will be looking to the state to fund the expected $100M in infrastructure improvements needed.

Accompanying its filing, the Foundation issued a release communication and video- and has been very busy hosting receptions and open houses, visiting churches et al, going to City Council, and preparing for public meetings:

(Facebook Foundation statement from Mike Strautmanis:) “More than a museum with stories from the past, we want this to be a place that helps all of us to build our collective future. Because in the end, this Center, most importantly, is for the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and create the world as it should be.” —President Barack Obama on the vision for the Obama Presidential Center, a dynamic place for Chicagoans and visitors alike to gather, exchange ideas, learn, and also have some fun: https://www.obama.org/the-center
Watch @BarackObama share our vision: http://www.obama.org/the-center

Watch: President @BarackObama shares the latest plans for the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side. https://www.obama.org/the-center
Check out the latest designs for the Obama Presidential Center, a dynamic campus for Chicagoans and visitors to gather, exchange ideas, learn, and also have some fun: https://www.obama.org/the-center
The @ObamaFoundation will be more than a museum, it will be a world class cultural attraction that energizes Chicago’s South Side. Learn more: https://www.obama.org/the-center]

(Continuing commentaries about the changes and design benchmark, by Gary Ossewaarde:)

It appears the design is complete, at least in outline. Upon examining the model and schematics up close, it appears to be a fine, stunning PARK design if that part of the park is to become activated and usable and a draw for people and wildlife both. (Yes, there have been expert suggestions on further changes to the Museum tower, but one would not want the statement blunted by postmodernist fruha.) Tribune Architecture Critic said that, in the main it is a one of a kind of opportunity that should be the exception, or modified expression to park and Olmsted principles- circumstances change.) It is full of both native plantings and landscape- including a third more trees (many better) interspersed with curving paths and amenities and activity areas, all open to the public. Most of the site except at the building and plaza complex, retains Olmsted's concept of calming but inviting berm around the park perimeter that then slopes back down. It even has swale terrain that can temporarily retain and absorb excess rainwater or snow melt while keeping the lawn of the perennial garden.
It does appear
to this writer that the plan will only work and provide enough of the landscape and native plantings/wildlife habitat that is expected for this park, and return to parkland the acreage of the structure complex if Cornell Drive is closed, replaced with promenade path and vegetation. However, it is likely the plan would be made to work (at a cost to good and safe connectivity?) even if Cornell were just reduced. (Note that since the space of Cornell Drive is in the presented OPC site perimeter, it is added as accessible and greatly improved quality parkland, but not necessarily as everyone would define. The Foundation would be responsible for it. David Simas, Foundation CEO, implied to the Sun-Times editorial board that the closure of Cornell is essential and not open to negotiation. (It was in the concept model introduced by Obama in May 2017, and indeed (according to Executive Director Robin Cohen) in the U of C proposal of August 2016.) Simas said, "...We have filed our plan. We believe this is the best approach." Architect Billie Tsien told the Sun-Times editorial board, "We wanted to close Cornell Drive. It seemed to us a quite obvious proposal because it was really about uniting the park."

The main visible change is that the main, Museum, building will be taller (225 vs 160-180 feet) but thinner and sleeker and will a more open, transparent design with more windows and a grill on the west and south faces to soften the monolithic effect. More landscaping and blending of structures into landscape also seem to be involved that will disguise with landscape for visitors within the outdoors site, while keeping or enhancing the slope up then down toward the east honoring Olmsted's "berm" concept to set apart and quiet the park yet invite people in. The architects told Blair Kamin of the Tribune that the plan strikes a balance between fitting into Jackson Park and making an iconic statement, befitting the first African American President. People's response would seem to depend on how strongly one considers relative quietness (excepting current noisy picnics) an essential quality of this part of the park vs. desire for more people use or vibrancy in this quarter.
Costs are guessed at between $300M (that in the project management contract) and $500M plus public infrastructure costs.
The tower would be of tan/gray or white stone, including the letters or quotations of the grill. Architects Tsien and Williams are quoted by Blair Kamin in the Tribune January 10 saying that the tower stands for "ascension, hope and what ordinary people have the power to do together." "I don't feel embarrassed about it being tall. This isn't about a private homage. It's a public recognition of many people's stories."
Kamin quotes Foundation officials: "We have a sense of urgency about this project. People are anxious to have this come to life."
The Center building and landscape will take up 19.6 acres (Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times says 19.3) of the allotted 20 acres when taking into account current estimated gain of 5.16 acres if Cornell drive is vacated. (Still to be reconciled is northward movement of the Center from "60th to 63rd" to 59th to 62nd, and also (from the first version on) to the start of the lagoon slope rather than to the edge of Cornell Drive). It is asserted that overall there will be a net gain in parkland of over 5 acres. The structures will take up about 3.6 of ordinance-alloted 5 acres. These will be five- Museum tower, forum, a possible-public-library, underground garage, and a athletic/recreation building, all connected at a subterranean level having sunken opening skylights. The structures will mostly have landscaped roofs accessible to the public, the garage completely over-landscaped-and visitors will have to emerge from it at grade to go to the buildings, not go directly into the Museum as at MSI. (The architects say this wil help activate the site and encourage viewing and visiting beyond it including to the MSI and Wooded Island/Japanese Garden.)
There is landscaped strip of land and drop off for cars and buses between Stony Island and the center buildings. The buildings will have several access points and be linked or common underground.

Changes announced May 7 2018. The playground and nature play area is moved from the far southeast corner to a more central location closer to Stony Island between the Forum and Library building rears. The southeast corner will now be a picnic grove.
The plaza space in front of the Forum will not be sunken, in another bow to Olmsted's idea of rising rather than dropping ground at the edges of parks-- this will also apply to the change to the recreation building. (Designers say they have considered partial landscaping further south in the site by Alfred Caldwell in the 1930s (?) that is mostly gone today-whether there will be a bow to it isn't know yet to this writer.)
The Recreation-Conference building will have a more conventionally shaped roof and an increase height to as much as 20 feet rather than 18. .
The 10-foot curb extension into Stony Island Ave. at the plaza is eliminated.

The Museum tower: Footprint is shrunk (by how much is not known to this source yet, but its footprint is smaller than most of the other buildings). Height is now 225 feet (235 at one corner) rather than previous estimate of 160-180, and 165,000 gross square feet. It would have a modest shadow effect on the park, as do some other nearby buildings. All the buildings will have a creamy-grey, variegated skin- think Solstice on 56th St. Also to break up the profile and make it less hulking, monolithic and opaque, windows are added or enlarged- including a now 100 foot expanse of glass on the north side (presumably designed to discourage bird crashes) with escalators visible from the outside. Also, a distinctive screen of visible letters or quotes (of the same gray and white stone) rises from the middle floors to the the top on the corner-- over half the west face and wrapping around over half the south face-- for part of the floors serving as sunscreen, for others shielding outdoor terraces having an inner facade of windows. Architect Todd Williams is quoted, "We want to make sure this is a lively, engaging, sun-sensitive building." Presumably, some windows would be used for visitors to look out and engage with the stories and histories of the communities and spaces surrounding including histories of race and disparities. At least one large opening/indentation with window(s) will be on the east side.
The interior would have 8 full floors and four mezzanines (plus a below-grade level). The top would be sunlit with viewing areas of the park, lake, and communities- this latter planned to be available to the public. The Museum exhibition section (midsection) would charge admission (although a few exhibit spaces will be free and open). There will be other spaces in the lower section and a rentable floor for entertainment. Foundation CEO David Simas told Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times, "The tower is essential to the story we want to tell. Both in terms of making it a signature, cultural landmark on the South Side of Chicago and Jackson Park but also symbolically [telling] the story of ascension"--and "all about inspiration," not just of and for Barack Obama and Michelle, but the experience of South Side African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement, he told Sweet. Louise Bernard, Museum Director, told the Sun-Times editorial board that the tower "is not a monument to President Obama and his legacy. it is a monument to the possibility (about) acts of change that all people can bring about. So we want to ensure that the exhibition, the permanent exhibitions itself, never feels kind of dusty and stale, that there is always something energizing about it, that it is able to tap into the present and the future."
Details since- the Museum - The first level will deal with milestones in US history and figures in Chicago history related to the Obama story and the Obama's early life and careers. The second will examine Obama's two terms, the third aspects of life in the East and West Wings and being what being an African American family in the White House involved as well as the people behind the scenes that make a White House run, the fourth a replica of the Oval Office including replica of the historic Resolute Desk--this wil include virtual reality of activity in te Oval office and imagining yourself there. Relics from the Obamas will include his Nobel Peace Prize medal, sampling from the 10 letters from real people read daily, campaign memorabilia, and the First Lady from initiatives to fashion including how she used dress to send messages and inspire.

The Forum: 70,000 gross square feet. One story above ground, another below, with a rise of 38 feet above ground. Hosts a 300-seat auditorium, meeting spaces, the recording studio and training center, and a restaurant on the south end and a landscaped roof with winding paths publicly accessible from the site landscaping. It would be set back east of a public plaza, with the Forum starting about a third of the way east of the west facade of the Museum.

The Library building (50,000 gross square feet) is the least defined as bargaining continued with the city, it being unclear whether the city would want a branch at this site and who would pay for operation or whether there would be rent or possibly a charge. The Foundation will pay for and build the structure. This would not house materials from the President's archive, which will be housed by the government offsite and digitalized. In any case, two-thirds of this building is for deliveries, mechanical, and other back of house services for the entire Center. Its west facade is approximately in line with that of the Museum.

Parking Garage: One or two underground levels for up to 450 cars, with light wells. Exit will be at grade into the center of the site and also to the athletic building to the south.

Athletic Center: 40,000 gross square feet rising 18 feet above grade. One level is at ground level and one below--the structure is partially depressed to accommodate high ceilings. Flex space is envisioned for anything from dance to basketball to performance. Community and workout rooms are included. Thoughts are to work with the high schools and park district for auxiliary programs for the latter. The building will be a horizontal rectangle with a distinctive cantilevered, curving, free-form roof with a cut for a tree, and a glass facade on the south looks to the new running track.

The open space: 19.6-3.6=15 acres -5 if Cornell Drive not used but + landscaped spaces on top the buildings ut ignoring planted medians in Stony Island, open and accessible to the public.
The Plaza
is supposed to be the centerpiece and will be at the center of the site. Foundation offices with light wells will be under the Plaza.
An open oval south and south east sloped down towards Cornell- for anything from sledding to concerts, movies, lectures et al and community garden (still undefined and may be on top of one of the buildings), and winding paths with wildlife-friendly trees and plants-- 300 (later said to be not more than 500) of the current trees will be cut and replaced with over 400 trees, plus shrubs and cover. It is not clear how many and what proportion of the current trees may be saved. However, many trees on the site died from the ash borer and other causes-- a number of these were already cut to the ground in 2017, others are marked to be cut. Simas told the Sun-Times that "there will be no (additional?) trees removed or cut down" until the foundation has the permits.

The north end, where Midway South is removed, will have natural water treating mini swales with native plantings that can hold and absorb some of the sited runoff, excess rain or snow melt. In a decision for preservation, the 1936 Perennial Garden with its lawn will be kept and enhanced as a Women's Garden. (Plans show access trails closer to the garden tan at present and significantly enhanced access including ADA.) (The team is concerned with honoring the Women's bench on the Midway, but with the garage gone from there and the land not to be conveyed to the Center, it was unclear what if any responsibility the Foundation will assume for that rather unkempt site.) A new bike and pedestrian promenade will continue beyond the site perimeter east of Cornell from 59th toward the Museum of Science and Industry, with a branch having already diverted east to Darrow Bridge and the Wooded Island bridge in accordance with CDOT and South Lakefront Plan documents. Again, the Foundation's role in this is unclear.

The Museum tower sits in a landscaped oval similar to that around the Women's Garden.
East of the Forum building is the Wooded Walk. Atop the Library is the Community Garden. South east of the Library and on the north edge of the parking garage is the Overlook Terrace. West of that and outside the parking perimeter is the Outdoor Classroom, just to the west of which is a very small protruding structure that may be part of the parking structure. Atop most of the parking garage and south of the Wooded Walk is the (great) Lawn convertible to temporary event space, sloping down to Cornell. Near Cornell south of the Lawn and east of the Athletic Center is first the historic English Cottage comfort station that is outside the Center footprint and remains with the Park District, then east of that and just south of the Picnic area is the Playground, forming the south edge of the site. Note, a major change later was that the playground and nature play space will be moved from the far southeast corner to the back end green roof between the Forum and Library buildings, closer to and observable from Stony Island. Tweaks were being made to the parking garage and its access.

Obama Presidential Center Second Public Meeting
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
McCormick Place (South Bldg. accessible from King Dr. south of the Regency, use Gate 4)
Doors will open at 5:00 PM
https://www.obama.org/chicago/rsvp/. RSVPs aren't required to attend, but it will help with a sense of numbers for planning. If you can't attend in-person, you can still submit questions and comments using the form and tune-in for a live stream, or go to obama.org.

Tribune online has rendering of design, discussion of roadway and other controversies and announcement of Foundation gift for the replacement track and field:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-obama-presidential-center-20180227-story.html (See below)
"The whole idea behind this meeting is to continue gathering input from folks on the South Side and all over the city to help inform the plans that we'll file with the Chicago Plan Commission this spring. This will be a chance for us to hear your ideas and answer your questions about the design and development of the Center, as well as the Foundation's programs and proposed community resources." Nevertheless, what will be presented is called by the Foundation's latest release is the final plan pending review by the Chicago Plan Commission.
This is a joint meeting with City of Chicago and Chicago Park District. The design teams will be present.
Breakout sessions cover wide range.

• Designing the Obama Presidential Campus: Buildings and Landscape
• Inside the Obama Presidential Center: The Visitor Experience and Programming
• Economic Impact
• Chicago Park District's Plans for New Track and Turf Field
• Chicago Department of Transportation Proposed Transportation Changes and improvements for Pedestrians, Bicyclists, and Drivers

President Obama appeared in person and spoke for the better part of an hour and gave extended responses to two questions. Afterwards there were panels with opportunities for questions in 5 breakouts.
Obama (and the architectural team in the design and landscape breakout at least) went into detail on reasons and inspiration for the Center, its citing, and its programming. They stressed that the program - desire to reach and inspire the next generation and engage and find solutions to big problems (ennoble and enable, Me to We) drove the design, not the other way around. They stressed that the road closures and replacements were necessary to create a continuous green and natural space and connections from the green roofs of structures through gathering and strolling spaces to the nature areas starting with the lagoon shores and allowing seamless travel to and from the Museum and to keep almost all of the site pubic and easily accessed and traversed. There is also transition via the recreational building to the new artificial turf field to the south that they had just announced funding for by teh Foundation to ensure there would not be a season with out a track and field. CDOT officials stressed that the road changes were as much prompted by the OPC as a reason to find funds for improvements they long sought to improve safety and reclaim the park and stop its breakup by the automobile as to accommodate OPC and golf themselves. All the structures will have public spaces in them, including the museum tower lower and upper levels and viewing lookout (the middle Museum will have admission charge).
The strongest pushback on the site remains 1) groups pushing on the roadways and removal of parking especially on Hayes Dr. , 2 groups seeking a CBA, and 3) other groups that still hove to move the OPC away. However, the president (indeed, his appearance as well as his words) said they are firm on the intention and plan, would make adjustments that make sense, but at some point intend to build. Among examples of major changes cited were the move of parking to onsite and underground and keeping the Perennial Garden intact.
Also stressed was partnership with a wide range of organizations and projects already operating in or would come to the communities, the watchword being used was "supplement, not supplant." The president touted transparency over written agreements.
The president downplayed the likelihood of heavy gentrification and displacement pressures while at least endorsing (but with no specifics) on measures to safeguard present owners and renters. Economic growth was touted.

What President Obama said in January 2018 in the release about presentation of the plan to the Plan Commission:

Over the past year, Michelle and I have been working with an extraordinary team to dream up a campus for active citizenship on the South Side of Chicago. And while this Presidential Center may have our name on it, we're developing it every step of the way with your input, and with you in mind.

So far, thousands of you have helped hone our approach to the Center and shaped its design. From community meetings to online surveys, you've inspired us, challenged us, and made our plans better.

Today, we're taking a big step towards the start of construction. So I want you to hear directly from me where things stand -- and share a few images of what we're thinking, as well.

When I was younger, there was a time I dreamed of being an architect. So, as you might guess, I've been pretty hands-on in the plans for this Center -- and Michelle has, too. We want it to be a place full of life and activity, where Chicagoans and visitors alike can explore, exchange ideas, learn, and have some fun.

First, as we've said before, the Obama Presidential Center will be an open, inclusive campus that integrates directly into Jackson Park. We'll have a Museum and Library building, of course, but the campus will also include a place we're calling the "Forum" -- a public meeting space where anybody can come together for some local programming, or to gather for larger-scale events in an auditorium, maybe record something in a broadcast studio, or just have a bite to eat.

These buildings will frame a community-facing public plaza, designed to be a town square of sorts for gatherings both informal and planned. There will be play areas, an indoor athletic facility, walking paths, even a sledding hill. It will be a space for all seasons, for folks from all walks of life, from Chicago and all around the world. That's the most vital aspect of the Obama Presidential Center -- creating spaces for people to connect and collaborate, to take home a piece of what you've learned together. Because at the end of the day, the real action won't happen here. It'll happen in communities around the country, and the world. That was true when I was a candidate for president, and it's true now.

Check out sketches of our model

The Forum and Library Building are two-story structures that are nestled into the park and, in fact, covered by part of it. The Museum building is a tower, a form representing hope -- in particular, the hard-earned hope of what ordinary people have the power to do together. We actually designed it with this photo in mind -- of hands coming together -- and so each facade of the tower will be a little different from the next. It's our way of showing that it takes many hands to shape a place.

It takes many hands to shape a place

Building something new is never easy. It requires patience. It requires listening. Not just listening for show, but actively incorporating what we've learned into the plans. And that's why public input has been absolutely central to our process. We've taken your thoughts and concerns, and reconsidered and re conceived various aspects of the campus design and the details of the architecture. We've reimagined the landscape plans and the recreational spaces. And we're far from finished. We're going to continue to iterate on these plans, and we're going to continue to turn to you for your feedback.

Check out sketches of our model

Here's the most important thing: Michelle and I want this Center to be more than a building or a museum. We want to create an economic engine for Chicago and the South Side, and a cultural destination that showcases the South Side to the rest of the world. We want it to be a gathering place -- somewhere for all kinds of people to come together and learn, not just from history or current events, but from each other. More than a museum with stories from the past, we want this to be a place that helps and inspires all of us to build our collective future. 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. And Michelle and I are grateful to all of you for being a part of it.

So please stay involved and stay tuned -- we'll be in touch with more soon.

- Barack

In addition to Blair Kamin's endorsement with caveats for the plans for the Center, The Sun-Times published a highly thoughtful endorsing editorial January 15 and published an also thoughtful op-ed by Natalie Moore January 19- the latter speaking truth all the parties in the controversy. The January 15 editorial, "Let's Make Obama Center South Side Gem," said the trick is to get this promising work in progress just right- "It holds the possibility to become a global tourist destination, a Chicago gem and an engine of South Side economic development. More than that, the Obama center in Jackson Park could mean a big infusion of something intangible but excellent- a reinvigorated sense ..of pride and possibilities." They think it can be a happening place for scholars, makers of national and local public policy, grass root organizations, and actual South Siders and Chicagoans with lots of distinct physical things, but also about "what happens there." They suggest a hefty events budget. They said the Foundation has not yet come up with or disclosed in full or punted to City Hall the cost for improvements the public would pay for, and whether the traffic ameliorations will fully compensate. (The editors said the think the road closure makes sense and non-traffic paths replacing it would not offend the pragmatic Olmsted, who would not have anticipated a six-lane highway blocking access through the park.) They also would like to see an outside monitor of the contracts, for example.

Meanwhile, a group named Coalition to Save Jackson Park has in the past filed extensive FOIA requests (now a lawsuit asserting that the PD is not cooperating with FOIA requests) for City (including any from the Mayor's Office), CDOT, and Park District records, information, and emails regarding environmental and related matters and the siting and tendering land in Jackson Park to the Obama Foundation, and claiming the city, and alleging deliberate secrecy on such matters as costs of road and other infrastructure work needed for OPC and other projects. In January 2018, the group filed a lawsuit alleging non-compliance with the FOIA. Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner wrote, “The Chicago Park District provided responsive documents, but asked that the request for emails be narrowed because the original request was unduly burdensome as written. The Chicago Park District attempted to work with the requester to help narrow the email search, but unfortunately the requester chose to file a lawsuit instead.”

op ed by Jackson Park steward Jerry Levy on the positive impacts the OPC and closure of Cornell would bring.

Op Ed by Jerry Levy, Chicago Park District Volunteer Steward for Jackson Park and JPAC Nature Committee and Park Projects chair. As in the January 24 Hyde Park Herald. Used with permission of Mr. Levy and reflecting his views. sjlevy@jeromelevylaw.com.

The Positive impact of the OPC on Jackson Park’s Nature Areas

As the Park District’s volunteer steward for Jackson Park, I have been involved in helping to maintain the natural areas. Ten years ago, many of the natural areas in Jackson Park and particularly Wooded Island were fraught with security and safety concerns. This has changed, to a large extent because of what has occurred with the restoration process and the increase in foot traffic that in itself has resulted in an increased sense of security.
The building of the OPC [Obama Presidential Center], and the closing of the contiguous section of Cornell Avenue will result in a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to these natural areas. This means that not only will many more people enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of these natural areas but they will do so with increased comfort and security.
The closing of Cornell Avenue between the OPC and the nature areas will mean a great deal to the peace- fullness of and ease of access to the Park. No more discomforting traffic noises; continuous parkland from the OPC all the way to and including Bobolink Meadow, and a safe pedestrian entrance to the Park without having to navigate the high speed traffic of Cornell Avenue.
From Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow, the views of the OPC to the west will not only lend to the aesthetics but will be a great inspiration for al South Siders to boast about our being the home of a two-term President.
An important element for Olmsted’s landscape designs, and equally important to the Park District, is encouraging people to visit and to use parks. The lure of the natural areas to OPC visitors will result in an increased foot traffic in these spaces. Likewise, pedestrian traffic between the MSI and the OPC will encourage visitors to wander into the nature areas of the park, to explore the pedestrian paths along the lagoons, through Wooded Island and along the paths of Bobolink Meadow.
The narrow strip of land between Stony Island and Cornell avenues on which the OPC is going to be built is now anything but a restful, peaceful area of parkland that is so integral to Olmsted’s landscape concepts. It is noisy, busy, and unsafe for little children’s play. It is the OPC’s stated desire to landscape much of that area so as to make it consistent with Olmsted’s philosophy.

PUBLIC MEETINGS - See meetings, above. Feb 27, March 7, coming in March on Lakefront Plan.

(Framework Plan meetings with option scenarios were held December 7 and 11, Framework Plan - Options and Scenarios phase and present plans for the Center et al were placeholders. - www.southlakefrontplan.com.

Update from the January 2018 JPAC Newsletter. By Gary Ossewaarde

The Obama Presidential Center design for the Jackson Park section seems to be largely set, and is an integral whole (including hydrology) difficult to rearrange unless completely re-conceived, unless one of these were to happen: the garage were moved to main site (which the design team said would be quite damaging to the park as well as difficult), or Cornell Drive conversion and traffic/other changes at the north were to be dropped. It seems that despite continued tweaking, the proposed area roadway changes are what the city wants to go with regardless of the Obama Center and regardless of golf consolidation. CDOT is holding its own set of public meetings on road closures and expansions.

Placement of the parking garage-
January 8, 2018 the Foundation announced that the parking garage will be built underground in its Jackson Park site rather than seeking public land on the Midway for a garage.

So, the following is now out of date, but nonetheless interesting. [(Then) still on the Midway and mostly above grade and raised a bit to provide view down the Midway and to Lake Michigan- not, as surmised from earlier comments that the deign teams were looking at options that include not on the Midway, across from Jackson Park on the Midway (a site that is a long ways from being conveyed) has caused much disagreement or others. The latest design, presented by the Obama Foundation at an invite meeting of mock ups, presentation, and q and a with 70 or so present on December 20, is considerably softened, and simplifies the activities (except a small playground) on the hill into a basically pastoral park experience with respect for this as a historic space honoring women at and since the World’s Fair. It includes a way to offset the loss of Olmsted’s connection and vista from Jackson Park to Washington Park (caused by elevation the railroad) also providing views in the other direction to Lake Michigan to the east. Widespread feel was that this design would be a good one for this focal nexus of the Midway boulevard, Jackson Park and Stony Island even without any garage or with the elevation reduced with or without an underground garage. On the other hand, many do not want any garage or feature there or any conveyance to a nonpublic entity. Midway PAC resolved against the garage. Others are concerned that division or focus on particular aspects or interests or else on huge hopes may overtake effort for resolutions in the broadest interest.

[A note about the design team Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, Michael Van Valkenburgh, and Dina Griffin- upon numerous observations and discussions, they seem attuned to and experienced with park values and experience, native and Olmsted landscapes, plants, and needs of communities surrounding parks and active sites, very humble, but highly knowledgeable. Dina Griffin is a life-long South Sider.]

Notes from the December 20 invite meeting on parking with the design teams at the Foundation offices.
A diverse audience of around 100 pro and con and and including Foundation funders and representatives of organizations was present. Mike Strautmanis said the design was not final. They were aware of criticism and made changes reflecting comments, especially about downsizing the site activities. and focusing on a quiet, park like space. the design reflects the imperative for a seamless experience that melds the main site as a seamless, non-distractive, mission-related experience. They in effect started over for the garage park, and the garage, party above partly below grade and more gradually-sloped away from Stony Island, will seem less an interruption of transition to Midway. This observer noted in the model and posters that the Goode-Cheney Women's bench is restored and moved to the place of honor near the center- of the hill and clear view of the highest point and Stony Island.
According to Michael Van Valkenburgh:
It is simplified (basketball, barbecuing et al are gone, except for possibly a small-kids playground - the others may move to the main site) and made pastoral and green, even the paths, and including plenty of trees and ornamentals that will be friendly to birds.
There will be no bus drop off or parking- bus drop off will be on the east side of Stony Island. There are just two decks of parking, the lower has majority under grade.
Pedestrian access and egress and paths are made to expedite movement to and from the main site (distance needs to be short) but also to get people on the street enhancing sense of safety and excitement and possibly encourage going to off-site businesses.
Everything in th site is fully accessible, including grades in the garage and on the park hill- at 5% or less none need handrails.
Elevation at the west end was raised to allow dramatic views west and east while discouraging [homeless et al] from using the area. At the same time, the north side is lowered and made into a hanging and water garden with pool. All sides are made so one does not see into the garage. Earth and landscaping cushion on all sides.
The garage does not have or need elevators, people are directed via slopes to the corners. Entry and exit for cars are at the west onto the Midway to minimize both effect on neighbors and backups.
They are working on right amount and shielding of lighting and on exact right height. They think they have the amount of parking right (c450) but there is really no way to tell.

Questions and comments.
-Think pastoral is the right direction. Concern is whether and how people will use the hill-park.
-Need to make sure the eliminated activities, especially for youth and younger adults, is provided somewhere and accessible/attracting on the site.
-Bicycle use needs to be accommodated and apparent/encouraged. Take a look at what is provided ast Wolf Lake. Could a bike path be incorporated? There must be a bike station.
-Can you convene a conversation about reactivating the whole Midway and interface into Jackson Park stressing connectivity-- traffic calming, fixed walks and paths, new bike trails et al.
-It's a better concept than the condition of that part of the Midway now, which is a major interface and needs an anchor. It has potential to engage and bring together communities.
-This is public land you are taking and chopping up. You haven't made it clear why the parking needs to be here and why off-site. (A- We could not find another site that is available and suitable and very close and less intrusive. It would do more damage including because of water table on site in Jackson Park. And underground would be very expensive, although cost is not the driver. The comfort and ease of getting from parking to the site without creating an out-of-car-back-into-car are priorities.)
-The plan puts the OPC too much in pieces; as much as possible of parking and roadways should be underground. Also, train transportation needs to be integrated into the garage (not stated but... move Metra station to south side of 59th/N. Midway?).
-This is land creep by the project (Foundation says the total land stays within allotted 20 acres). This is delicate space and a intact present landscape; can impacts be minimized and nestled in trees? (A. Team- similar structures in redesigned Olmsted spaces like Prospect Park seem to work and not be a noticeable distraction. There is room to lower the height and keep the advantage if such is deemed desirable.)
-(MPAC). We appreciate your effort to address concerns and make an attractive design, but disappointed to see that there were no other ptions...that do not include the Midway...and continues to be a tone deafness to the community's voice. We still do not understand why the foundation is insistent upon this and we question the need for the garage to be there. (A. It's not a breaking point but is the best design result, based on our experience from the process. Several other options were seriously explored and found inadequate. The main reason among land available to us was quick access while getting people to see and be on the street and site as a whole and encouraging doing things outside t he Center and so spur economic development. Having it on the main site would be the bad option of visitors going directly on and off Stony Island and disrupting that. Again, there would be bad impacts in Jackson Park [this editor suspects these could include impacts on underground remains from historic Columbian Exposition structures now under Section 106 review, as well as having to go deep into water table near the sensitive lagoons]. The height-overlook unifies the two parks and lakefront connection and vistas including over the Masaryk Sculpture reactivating the latter.)
-(Vista Homes). This will give a good use to the site and is a good design. The park should engage with the neighborhood- the area feels unsafe now. I appreciate the pastoral and passive change and the spruce up. Yet The whole site should be shifted southward. The automobile should be de-emphasized and people encouraged to come other ways and not increase traffic. This is a taking of public land.
-(Subsidized housing to south). We are favorable, appreciate that this development is not pushing people out but making jobs, and appreciate more parking in the area. Will you and CDOT come to our complex south of 61st to discuss parking growth and access/connectivity issues? (Strautmanis--Absolutely.)
-Concern that 450 spaces will be inadequate for teh Center, plus other growth- what is the backup if it isn't? (We are concerned and unsure about that also. On the other hand, auto use is going down. We used robust projections.
-The 2000 framework plan called for a child's garden and playground- that's mostly gone the Framework should be implemented. What is the process that you are making your own design- what is your right to do anything here?
(Jackson Park Watch). Opposes for host of reasons; expected you to remove it or at least offer options. Tell us the basis and your right for being on the Midway and, in Jackson or moving the site northward -- the two together would be more than the 20 acres allotted? If this is supposed to be your economic development spur, there are no shops or restaurants nearby to walk to- it's residential.
(A. It is within the allowed total acreage. We have not been conveyed the land yet. We need to have a reason and need with a good better choice first then go with a whole plan to the city.)
-Can the community own and share take from the garage, whether it's here or on the UC lot to the south? Can't the Foundation take on a holistic approach to the area's parking and other needs? (A. We will absolutely consider all options for owning and operating the garage- plan now is for Foundation to operate it. They don't want to take on the very big bite of planning parking et al for the whole community but be a partner in solutions. When we present to the city, it will be all at once with a whole plan for the Center, not for parts. Re-emphasized that other offsite options such as share with Museum of Science and Industry or build on the UC lot to the south have not been made available to them.
-Make more use of buses to move people around. Washington DC does not have parking garages around the mall. (A. We are looking at shuttles to the other museums and centers of activity in the area and in general modes of getting around appropriate for conditions here .)
-(Peri Irmer, DuSable Museum). A good design including vista to west. The Center brings hope for South Side growth and an intensified center for creating transformation. She would like to see help developing more parking at the west end of the Midway, and other ways of connecting DuSable and into Washington Park and beyond.
-(Leon Finney). I am encouraged by the dialogue and care. Expect the design will continue to be tweaked. We need to keep in mind the importance, and inspiration of Obama and keep our eyes on the possibilities and not our fears. This is a chance to reverse disinvestment. Woodlawn needs more parking.

Foundation response to questions and misinformation from the public passed along to the Foundation in Oct-Nov 2017. Read in PDF

To the members of the Jackson Park Advisory Council:

Thank you for reaching out to let me know about the rumors that have been going around about the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). We recognize there are honest questions, but there are also some people who are using this process to further their own agenda. It’s helpful to have JPAC in place as truth tellers who have cared about Jackson Park for years—before there was any idea about the Obama Presidential Center coming to the South Side. We have appreciated the opportunity to work with you and learn from you, and we look forward to many years together as neighbors and advocates for historic and beautiful Jackson Park.

We have thought considerably about how we can take this opportunity—with 700,000 visitors coming to the OPC every year—to boost local businesses on the South Side. We also think considerably about how to protect the historic legacy of the park. Locating the parking facility on the Midway Plaisance supports both of those goals. By ensuring that OPC visitors will arrive on foot, we increase the likelihood visitors will patronize local businesses before and after their visit. It also allows us to keep cars out of Jackson Park, improving the park experience for all.

One of the reasons we began our public conversations as early as we have is because we want to hear directly from South Side residents what they want in the OPC. For instance, we know that the Cheney-Goode Memorial on the Midway Plaisance has a special place in our history, which is why we are working with our architects to determine how the bench can be reintegrated into an honorific position within the re-imagined landscape. In fact, because the Midway Plaisance is so underutilized today, many do not even know of the Cheney-Goode Memorial. Far from removing it, we will have an opportunity to elevate its stature and provide the recognition we would love for it to have.

Regarding Cornell, our vision is to create a park that is safe for children to run and play, establishes more connectivity to Lake Michigan and the Lagoon for visitors to enjoy, and restores the interconnectivity of the park. With our proposed plan, we seek to create a cultural destination that is every bit as strong as institutions we see in other parts of the City.

What follows are the specific facts that speak to the rumors you are hearing.

Myth Fact
The Cheney-Goode Memorial will be covered or removed. The Cheney-Goode Memorial will be preserved and its stature elevated.
Removing Cornell will result in children walking along and falling into the Lagoon. Our walking paths are a safe distance from the edge of the lagoon. We are highly suspect of anyone who argues that keeping a major thoroughfare in the middle of the park is the safest solution for children.
OPC visitors will disturb the natural habitats of birds within the park. Jackson Park is one of the top birding destinations in the state and we will protect its legacy. Our landscape team is studying the habitats of birds who frequent the park and offering solutions for attracting more birds and protecting their habitats in the park.
The parking facility will be visible above the Canadian Railway tracks from the west. There will be an appropriate height relationship between the parking facility and existing train embankment. With the new elevated park space, we will create a lookout that invites park goers to appreciate the entirety of the Midway, looking over the Midway to the Fountain of Time and into Washington Park.
The barbecue area will have noisy cookouts and disturb neighbors. We cannot deny that people will come to the OPC to have fun. In fact, we’re thinking a lot about how to make sure they do! The activities being discussed for the park space at the Midway will be scaled in a way that will not attract large groups of people at single moments in time.
The garage entrance will affect access to Lab preschool. The parking facility entrance and exit will be on the Midway Plaisance. There will be no changes or additional traffic generated on 59th and 60th Streets, which are the primary access routes to the Lab School.
The Wooded Isle will become part of the OPC and privatized or closed to the public. This is completely false, and the Wooded Isle will remain under the purview of the Chicago Park District.

I hope the answers above help clear up some misconceptions that have been raised by residents and other users of historic Jackson Park. I encourage you to share these answers with other members of the community as these topics come up. In the future, please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any more questions about the Center or if you hear something that does not quite add up. We want to make sure people in the community are not misled by those with their own agendas—and that in the end, we build a Center that functions in harmony with this community that President and Mrs. Obama love so much.

Mike Strautmanis
Vice President of Civic Engagement
Obama Foundation

Note- the Section 106 et al Historic Review is a this stage for a Task Force, but individuals can be added. Visit https://tinyurl.com/JPImprovements. SEE DETAILS IN OUR SECTION 106 PAGE. http://www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac/Section_106_OPCMobilityHistoricReview_2017.htm. A Kickoff stakeholders meeting was held December 1 2017. Stakeholder and public comments are now being taken ahead of Report and meeting (tba) on the Historic Places inventory (which will be the focus of both what is eligible for National Register status and determining possible places of adverse impacts/effects (APE) and starting to identify such impacts.

September 25, Obama Foundation and JP Golf Alliance modestly revised plans and taking of public questions and comments in open format. South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 South Shore Drive. Makeup Sept. 27 at tba.

September 27, Wednesday, 4-8 pm. Chicago Park District, Obama Foundation and JP Golf Alliance will present revised framework and project plans and take public questions and comments in open format. At Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island.

September 20, Wednesday, 6 pm is the final plenary meeting before presentation of proposed CBA to the entities, the topical forums having concluded. Hyde Park High School, 6220 S. Stony Island.

December 7 and 11 2017.

Public meetings under CPD were held in June, July, and August covering the start and objectives of South Lakefront Plan framework plan update, the golf proposal and the OBC planning to date. A necessarily short summary of these and concerns raised is in the JULY JPAC NEWSLETTER and pdf version of it. Following is also two summaries by the Foundation including what their take away is. It is not possible here to give the many media and individual responses to the meetings-

In August the foundation held the next in a series of invitation only meetings (this one had a broad spectrum of experts/experienced persons, organizations, and community residents and viewpoints who were presented much more detail of possibilities and critiqued them. Changes included that the Foundation would pay for a parking garage on the Midway- but entirely above ground with a park-like top and children's play areas beside it, that the proposed remaking of the Perennial Garden would include a gray water treatment basin surrounded by native plantings, no bridge across Stony Island or east to Wooded Island, and no more mention of what might compete with other facilities such as farmer's market. Strongest opposition was to the garage and the replacement of the Perennial Garden, and concerns that the wildlife on the Island could be disturbed, and removal of existing trees. The presenters promised equal tree replacement, a small and gradual land slopping, and additional natural plantings.


Summary statement of the Foundation June 29, 2017

This past week, 800 Chicagoans joined us at the City of Chicago's public meetings to discuss the future of the Obama Presidential Center and Jackson Park. We also received nearly 400 submissions to our landscape survey, through which Chicagoans shared how they currently use Jackson Park and how they'd like to see it evolve.

Thank you to everyone who has shared feedback with us so far. Your input will inform our next steps and how the Obama Presidential Center and its surrounding landscape can become a place to bring the community together.

We wanted to share just a few of the important insights we learned from you this week:

We heard positive feedback about the mix of amenities being offered -- from the sledding hill to the public lawn, community gardens, and walking paths.

Survey respondents were most interested in a community plaza to host special events and markets; wildlife observation around the Vegetated Basin, Woodland Walk, and Lagoon; and picnics, barbecues, or large outdoor events at the Lawn.

42% of survey respondents walk, bike, or take the bus to visit the park.

There is a strong desire to focus on young people's experience at the Obama Presidential Center, giving youth on the South Side a safe and engaging place to learn and play.

Jackson Park is among the best places in the state to go bird watching, and bird lovers urged us to protect the birds and their natural habitats.

Some residents, and parents in particular, were supportive of creating parkland over Cornell Drive because of concerns about children running and playing close to the six-lane road. Others had concerns about impact on traffic and urged the City of Chicago to consider road improvements that protect commuters from increased travel times.

In the months ahead, we will use this feedback to help guide our next steps and shape our design. We will also be hosting several more meetings with community residents, so keep an eye out for future events.

Working together, President and Mrs. Obama believe we have an opportunity to create a vibrant hub for the community in Jackson Park. We greatly appreciate your willingness to join us in this process and are confident that your input will help strengthen what we are able to do together on Chicago's South Side.

Thank you,

Michael Strautmanis
Vice President of Civic Engagement
Obama Foundation

Statement of the Obama Foundation June 21:

Tonight's meeting is an important one as it will help set the tone for the engagement process that is so critical to the success of our mission. We believe that, working together, we have an opportunity to:

Enhance historic Jackson Park to create a more cohesive park with connectivity to Lake Michigan, creating a hub for the community full of life and vibrancy
Strengthen the economic climate on Chicago's South Side
Update amenities to offer fun and engaging ways to enjoy the park, including a sledding hill; children's play area; public plaza for hosting things like farmer's markets, marching band or social gatherings; public lawn that could host special events like concerts and film screenings or for everyday use for recreation and relaxation.

We encourage you to share your thoughts and make sure your voice is heard at this event. As a reminder, here are the details:

From the Jackson Park Advisory Council JPAC Newsletter July 2017 (June minutes and page 5)

Golf and park coordinating committees. Jerry Levy, chair, said the committees will meet again after the public meetings presenting the engineering and design reports and proposed golf layouts. Alderman Hairston’s golf and park advisory council toured the parks last Thursday. The Alderman spoke of infrastructure and shoreline needs for park and community that should in any case be addressed. CPD Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly assured that the parks are being evaluated in their entirety, potential plans being coordinated, and public input process being set up leading to comprehensive park plans. He emphasized that the Obama and golf proposals are turning points in really discussing, looking at these parks. Committee members gave feedback.

Meetings started on JP Framework Plan, Obama Center, Golf Course, roads and infrastructure
[This commentary reflects views of its author, Gary Ossewaarde, and not necessarily the Advisory Council]

www.southlakefrontplan.com/join-conversation-posting-comments-idea-wall. www.obama.org.
https://go.obama.org/landscape-survey/ www. chicagoparksgolfalliance.org. See also project links on page 1 and Friends of the Parks list of media reports and opinion- from www.fotp.org.

About 600 attended the first of this first set of public meetings at South Shore Cultural Center, 150-200 at that at Hyde Park High School, and a large crowd was turned away from the small venue (75 seats) for the 5th Ward meeting June 27. The meetings started with 15 minute presentations on each of the four subjects by the Park District, Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, Obama Foundation, and Chicago Department of Transportation, with Smith Group/JJR engineering giving parts of the presentation and moderating. These gave background, vision and objectives, general plans, ways the park would change under each, and timelines. Renderings were either preliminary and conceptual or else mostly large scale rather than detailed. The Obama Center, being the smallest site and somewhat further along in design gave the best sense of the envisioned spaces and programming. Engineering studies are just coming in for golf and for roads and circulation along with the first Tiger Woods firm layout proposal for the golf course. It was evident that coordination has just started, in part because major decisions such as on roadway closures or remakes and who would fund underpasses and shoreline work have not yet been made. In addition, the main projects have expanded although they affirmed each is within its acreage footprints and every displaced feature will have 1 for 1 replacement (although for sports there will be a demand study, with some space possibly being outside this park –it is asserted there is not room enough for both all existing and all new things.) (Also, the Park District is mapping, assessing the state of, and costing every feature in the park.) There seemed to be different timelines, with the Obama Center to go before the Chicago Plan Commission as early as November. The golf planning is ongoing and driven by funds raised and desire for a tournament in 2021. The Framework Plan revision is supposed to put out for comment and meetings later in the summer, with process to be wrapped up by the end of the year—perhaps after major projects have received approval and possibly not giving enough time to be well thought out and as reflective as possible of community consensus and felt park needs. Nor has it been shown that much thought has been given yet to what features and activities should be in Jackson and what in other nearby parks.

The presentations were followed at the first two by breakouts with a mostly-digital survey interspersed with periods for comments and questions. Few questions were answered except where there was felt to be a clear misunderstanding, in part because they said a deliberate decision was made to listen before preparing working versions, and in part because there is as yet insufficient information or no decisions. There were comments and strong opinions pro and con on plans in part or in whole.
So, beyond those or informational matters, and assuming the major projects move forward…
What were some of the flashpoints that need to be given persuasive justification or addressed?

--The road closures, especially Cornell between 59th and 63rd Hayes and Midway EB Stony to Cornell and whether shifting to LSD and Hayes will make new problems and what might ameliorate that
--Sports field replacement /placement/how many (new track and field was shown south of the Obama Center)
--Fieldhouse future and site
--How much outdoor programming at the Center and its impact west and to nature areas as well as its incorporation of the present Perennial Garden site--Golf – can it truly stay affordable and serve the spectrum of users including local and stay sustainable and how much the site can be accessed by the general public
--Decision not to move the Driving Range but expand it at cost to tennis courts and dog friendly area and and need for a guarantee not to diminish or impact Bobolink nature area; golf facility encroachment on courts etc on the west side
--Making the golf perimeter and fencing better and more inviting but not putting off communities
--Golf - amount of tree turnover and guarantee of biodiversity and environmental responsibility and gain.
--By far the major issue for South Shore was moving/reconfiguration and full replacement of the nature area.
--Impacts in the neighborhoods

JPAC’s golf committee and the Alderman’s council will assess studies and drawings now in hand.

Available on the Park District website is a press release about the planning process and summarizing planning background for Jackson and South Shore parks (Washington Park and the Midway will be looked at later.)
To take surveys on the Obama Center, visit obama.org or go.obama org. To take a survey on the whole park, visit www.southlakefrontplan.com.

Of great interest is what IDOT will say about Cornell Drive and other road changes, and the Park District's overall vision for Jackson Park.
And whether any significant changes will be offered by the Foundation. We should remember that about 80 percent of the park will stay the same, at least functionally. Michael Van Valkenburgh of the design team said to the Tribune that the highway really has to stop isolating parts of the park from each other and that the park should be restored closer to Olmsted's vision--we could recreate a sense of connection and create a seamless transition. "It's an opportunity to restore some of the vision of the Olmsted plans, all the while moving into the 21st century.. understanding what the neighborhood wants to have is part of the process. He said that early studies said changes such as synchronizing lights would prevent an addition to commuting time. A CDOT spokesperson said it would take more than that. Friends of the Parks said it hopes the process is robust and real.
The Tribune noted that entertainment/public enjoyment features in the site and on the possible parking garage west of Stony Island echo (ed.- moving, maybe not?) those in the 2013 Project 120 funded (as revised) proposed Revision of the 1999 Framework Plan. Van Valkenburgh pointe to things for families and children, wooded walking areas extending over toward the Wooded Island and MSI and educational community (?) gardens. (He acknowledges that the latter are complex and hard to make work well.)
At the June 21 meeting, CDOT endorsed the road closures but the matter is not closed, it will not support making things worse, and it is taking input- several at the breakout sessions strongly opposed closure. Mike Strautmanis indicated the change is necessary to making the site work.

Strautmanis framed the Center's park vision as a matter of parks equity, creating the best park in America, realizing it full potential for the public and a people's park, bringing the public into the whole, connected park (a campus). He emphasized that the great majority of th site will remain non-building and the people will stilt be able to use it picnics, and now more including occasional concerts or movies. He went through the the various parts of the design, emphasizing different uses for different users. He emphasized the importance of solving the road issue.


About the Section 106 Historic and Archaeological Review process, which began November 2017. Reports, dates, comment page etc. are in https://tinyurl.com/JPImprovements ("improvements" is a formal term centuries old to refer to any additions, structures etc. on the land (real property). THIS IS EXPANDED AND UPDATED IN A NEW PAGE, Section 106 Environmental and Historical Review for the OPC.
Comments can be submitted to dpd@cityofchicago.org.

From December 2017 JPAC - November minutes:
Environmental and Section 106 review and surveys of historical/archeological resources/ environmental impacts of proposed projects. Eleanor Gorski of the Chicago Department of Planning described the scope of the work, required by law when funds are to be spent in public spaces that are on the National Register of Historic Places (i.e. Jackson and Midway 1972) to assess resources and what might be adversity impacted and need mitigation. The two reviews will be led by the Federal Highway Administration, but a host of federal, state and city agencies including EPA and Illinois Archeological Survey are involved. The Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development, with Transportation (together the “Applicant”) will do the heavy lifting of the survey and the task force that includes a large number of Consulting Party (CP) organizations and groups and the public hearing. JPAC is among nearly 60 participating CPs. The boundary of historic resources extends 1 to several blocks beyond Jackson and South Shore parks and Midway Plaisance east of the railway, areas that are or may be eligible to be in historic districts or the National Register. Foundations of former historic structures on the Obama Center proposed footprint, work-affected roadways and a set of spots throughout the park will be bored and probed at the 6’, 12’ and 24’ levels. The physical work (started) is expected to take at least several months. Task Force kickoff invite meeting is December 1. Visit https://tinyurl.com/JPImprovements where reports and meetings will posted and comments taken. Members said they welcome not only the review itself and the chance for the public to weigh in on a new set of matters but also the opportunity to learn more of the park’s great past, many incarnations, and design principles.

Continuing in the December 2017 JPAC Newsletter:
The next meeting on the South Framework Plan, this time with three scenario options regarding proposed changes will occur twice, December 7, Thursday, and December 11, Monday, both 6-9 p.m. at South Shore Cultural Center. “Each option will highlight different aspects of the parks while offering a balance of uses that provide the greatest public benefit. The criteria for developing these options were based on public input collected during the first two phases of the planning process. At these meetings, planners will also present the vision and guiding principles for the project. Meeting participants will have the opportunity to analyze, question, and comment on the proposed options. Park planners will engage with the community during the public forum to determine strengths and preferences of the various plans.”

Related- The Obama Foundation, its plans are being refined utilizing public comments and will not be submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission before some time next year. They apparently are waiting for what the reviews (see below) show. The golf consolidation process is also pushed back.
As requested at the October JPAC meeting, we submitted to the parties a number of questions and feared scenarios about the various proposed changes to the park. Many of the inventories, such as tree removals or placement are not complete, or being put into GPS database, or not yet available, or decisions need to be coordinated with the environmental and historical reviews. The options presented at the December Framework meetings may reveal more of where thinking could be heading or can be influenced. The Obama Foundation sent JPAC an extended letter and table of answers that is attached to the electronic Newsletter and will be available at the December meeting or from the Secretary. We are asking additional questions.
Section 106 historical and archaeological review of park resources and proposal impacts was started and a Task Force kickoff meeting was held December 1. (Watch for a similar, coterminous process for the NEPA Environmental Review to be announced.) See more details in the November minutes above and in the extensive power point online at https://tinyurl.com/JPImprovements where comments-- including about specific or missed historical resources in the park can be submitted. Admittance to the small hall was mostly limited to 2 representatives from each the many Consulting Parties, although there was a live-streaming overflow room (not full). The presentation was quite detailed and the floor was opened to many questions about process and specifics and statements, some expressing strong support for or else skepticism about the proposals and/ or their potential effects on the historic features.
Some of the comments: Golf and South Shore Cultural Center footprints have to be in this or have a review- please clarify. The rest of the Midway should be included in the study area. The site has shifted- please study that. Are the costs a potential damage? It’s exciting to see everybody interested in Jackson Park because we think it’s an amazing place- Olmsted would be proud. These reviews cannot be successful without knowing the tree etc. loses, gains and changes. Will the review consider effects of road changes including on access to harbors? The Obama Center will partner with Hyde Park High for a great gain. Jackson Park Highlands survey overwhelmingly supported the Center; I view the Museum building as a beacon of hope and change. It’s good the process is happening but it needs to answer all the questions and deal with all the concerns. If a large set of adverse effects are found, could there be a basis to recommend cancellation/movement elsewhere? (answer- this process does not provide for a go/no go recommendation but requirement to fix found problems before work can co forward). Michal Strautmanis of the Foundation told the Tribune after the meeting, “.. we saw a lot of interest and a lot of excitement. What could be seen as an arcane historic review process… we had people who are interested in the process come participate…. That type of civic engagement is exciting.”

The next steps for the project are to identify historic resources and their eligibility (under criteria) and the “Area of Potential Effect” including an inventory with eligibility determinations, and to review these with the consulting parties. After: to assess found adverse effects (which also have criteria) and review and resolve towards a recommendation, public hearings and Memoranda of Agreement. The next sets of meetings are for the Task Force teams with the consulting parties.

The potential inventory sites to be evaluated in the “Currently Identified Historic Features” includes these 27 structure
1. Iowa Building. 2. Music Court Comfort Station. 3. Bowling Green Clubhouse. 4. Music Court Bridge.
5. East Bridge (Clarence Darrow). 6. Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago landmark). 7. Perennial Garden. 8. Cheney-Goode Memorial Bench. 9. 59th Street Viaduct. 10. Masaryk Monument. 11. Linne Monument. 12. English Comfort Station. 13. Japanese Garden. 14. Shelter/Comfort Station at Driving Range. 15. 59th Street Inlet Bridge. 16. Middle Bridge on Hayes Dr. 17. Southern Shore Yacht Club. 18. Coast Guard Station. 19. Statue of the Republic (Chicago Landmark). 20. Cecil Partee Golf Shelter. 21. Maintenance Building. 22. Jackson Park Field House. 23. Jackson Park Yacht Club. 24. La Rabida Children’s Hospital.
25. Golf Shelter (at Promontory Drive). 26. South Haven (Animal) Bridge. 27. 63rd Street Beach House (Chicago Landmark).
15 of these are buildings and structures, 6 are bridges, and 4 are monuments.
In addition, the following Landscape Features are listed:
Circulation Roads and Paths. Golf Course. Berms and Sunken Lawn Panels. Historic Walks and Balustrades. Paved Granit Beach. Japanese Garden (also listed above), Perennial Garden (also listed above), and Naturalistic Designs including plantings and waterway systems, lagoons and Islands.


Link to March 13 2017 article on proposed development corporation for Woodlawn, South Shore and Washington Park of which the Obama Foundation would be a member and that would administer the community and economic development part in the neighborhoods (outside the Center and park): https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170313/jackson-highlands/barack-obama-presidential-library-woodlawn-washington-park-south-shore/

An article in Chicago Sun-Times March 17 2017 is short but relatively balanced though leaning toward the KOKO-led (Oakland-based) with STOP and Prayer and action Collective coalition that wants the president/Foundation (and some say U of C) to sign their CBA vs. others that want other approaches including the org. referenced above.

Herald (online) article by Christopher Amati- http://hpherald.com/2017/03/16/community-organizations-come-together-to-denounce-obama-presidential-center-cba-proposal/

Mike Strautmanis of the Obama Library Center addresses Woodlawn Summit March 18 2017

First, he said, the center is to be global, and urban and a community center and experience center that will build citizen engagement—train in how to engage and have an impact, as well as serve needs of the South Side communities. It will tell and build connection not just with the First Family’s story but the South Side’s Story. They don’t just want people to come and take ideas out into their communities, but also for there to be pathways and corridors for people to visit in the communities themselves. The designs will come, and there have been a lot of small and larger meetings, but a best plan for input is still under development. The Foundation seeks strong input into the design and program of the Center—there has not been much on their website from local people so far—people telling their stories and needs, and asks residents to visit http://go.obama.org/hometown.
For hiring and other direct involvement that will lead to sustainable careers, enterprises, and development, Strautmanis urged new approaches beyond a high standard and high targets.
Attendees spoke for a vision of the Center as an educator and human development engine. Attendees brought up the idea of a community benefits agreement, and there was much support and also skepticism. Strautmanis said he would continue to meet with the coalition groups seeking a multi-topic CBA, but he indicated he thinks there are better ways and encouraged thinking of benefits as broadly as possible. GMO


Foundation leadership, contacts.
. Back to meetings
Meetings starting et al.
Updates- recent late summer 2017

About/when can we expect more community meetings, planning? SEE AT LINK
Concept design unveiled May 2017
Ald. Hairston sends important public letter to OPC Foundation for engagement, coordination Feb 2017, sets up advisory committee.
JPAC sets up collab. committee to review and seek coordination park-wide among projects) other planning efforts underway
RFP issued for general contractor
Architect, landscape and design teams
- Roadways just one of the challenges
Where we are now. July 27, 2016 forward: MORE.
Foundation rep. comes to HPKCC mtg. 8/4/16, JPAC starting in Sept.
Next steps. (prospects for a CBA?- link to coalition for:
Foundation asks for ideas on the Center promoting citizenship, tells themes.

The Foundation has been very busy putting flesh on the mission of social impact on the neighborhoods and greater South Side with a new council on benefits headed by Arnie Duncan and J.? Wright, an RFP spelling out hiring etc. rules - contract release is expected soon, folding in the My Brother's Keeper foundation into the Obama Foundation, putting out a series of small video interviews with locals showing positive things being done by South Siders, public meetings and more.

To The Grand History of the site.

Read January 12 2015 Jackson Park Advisory Council open Q and A on the Library.

May 12 2015 Obama Presidential Center (Library) News Conference - find it posted at http://www.barackobamafoundation.org.
To see the Obamas' video, go to http://act.barackobamafoundation.org/obamas-message.

Link to the downloadable draft City of Chicago Ordinance of land transfer
(Note- proposed legislation is always in a special City Clerk's office website) https://chicago.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=3452499&GUID=7CBCA487-833C-4828-B455-66C1CCD10E3F

January 2017. Just before leaving office, Barrack Obama sent a message to those on his list asking for ideas for engagement and the Center and Library-- https://go.obama.org/add-your-voice. The home site-( www.obama.org
or https://go.obama.org/ if you want it secure such as to comment or give) both work.
It incorporates with more material and supersedes
barackobamafoundation.org. and my.barrackobamafoundation.org/.
Or use https://www.obama.org/your-voice or https://go.obama.org/hometown for submitting comments.

Here is his message, contained also in a video appeal:

You're among the very first to join Michelle and me in this next phase.

So, thank you — it's been the honor of our lives to serve eight years in the White House, and we're both energized to join you as private citizens and work with you to help shape the future for generations to come.

But first, we're going to take a short break. We'll take some time to be with family, maybe get some sleep — and really just be still for a little while.

In the meantime, we would love to hear from you. Send us your ideas, your hopes, your dreams about what we can achieve.

This Foundation will be a product of your ideas and ours together, and we're going to experiment. We'll try things and fail and succeed and learn along the way. But the constant will be the depth of our commitment to progress.

And like the early days, we'll be based on the South Side of Chicago, but we'll have programs all across the city, the country, and the world.

True democracy is a project that's much bigger than any one of us. It's bigger than any one person, any one president, and any one government. It's a job for all of us. And we've got to keep at it.

We'd love to hear from you. Please share your ideas here:


Thank you, and we'll see you all again soon.


And as reported in the Tribune by Kathy Bergen: The new website is heavy on details about the President's and First Lady's lives and their story of presidency highlights-- in several layers. The brief video asked for submission of grand themes and individuals that can be used to highlight the themes and or who can help shape the library and museum and programming and to help personally with "just one of the projects we're excited to work on." They ask belief not just in their ability but in "yours". The overall theme, the Obamas said, is to foster active citizenship. "Send us your ideas, your hopes, your beliefs about what we can achieve together. Tell us about the young leaders adn companies and organizations tha inspire you. This will be your presidential center just as much as it is ours."
The site stresses that even small donations are encouraged.

Foundation leadership
Chairman Martin Nesbitt (c/o The Vistria Group, 300 E. Randolph).
CEO David Simas*.
Executive Director Robbin Cohen.
Director of planning and construction Roark Frankel.
Project manager Christopher Brooks.
Development Chief of Staff- Jamie Citron (see below)
Strategic Initiatives- Jamie-Claire Flaherty

(*Mid December 2016 President Obama selected top aide and political advisor and operative David Simas as CEO of the Foundation. This signals start of the more active phase of fundraising and organizational expansion. Mr. Simas will return to Chicago with his family. He said he is dedicated to a Center that engages people for big changes, economic development, and inspiring generations of visitors.)

Principal contact: Vice President of Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis
5235 S. Harper Court, Chicago, IL 60615

Michael Strautmanis
VP for Civic Engagement, OPL
Barack Obama Foundation
5235 S. Harper Court, Suite 1140
Chicago, IL 60615
?????? 312-626-1147

Chief Development Officers (including re donations) Jordan Kaplan, but also Jamie Citron
773-420-1622/ mobile- 615-513-6849 jrcitron@obama.org.
Address as for Foundation

Foundation Board (most recently appointed in November 2016 is former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who is a native Chicago South Sider and close ally of the President, and managing director of Bain Capital. As listed in the Sun-Times, the volunteer members are

Martin Nesbitt, Chairman
J. Kevin Poorman
David Pouffe
Maya Soetoro-Ng
John Doerr
Thelma Golden,
Julianna Smoot
John (W.) Rogers, (Jr.)
Michael Sacks
Robert Wolf
Deval Patrick

In April 2017, former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett (the only one who lasted the entire administration?), newly joined the board of Ariel Investments, was named to the Foundation board. As an advisor, she will work pro bono with both the President and Mr Nesbitt and Mr. Simas on fundraising, programming development, and building support for the Center, working from both DC and Chicago. She sees definite connections to her other work for women's and girls' equality, criminal justice reform, the ACA, and diversity in business. Others including African American Chicagoans have been added to the board since.

Mid May Glenn Brown was placed in charge of digital efforts- not just publicity and outreach but planning the youth training program.

Inclusion/Diversity Council named October 11, 2016 (more may be added) For information, statements of purpose go to the Foundation Site.) This council seems primarily directed to general outreach and fundraising. And this appears to be separate from the Advisory Board named by the Mayor and affected aldermen and to be headed by Andrea Zopp.

Connie Lindsey (Northern Trust)
Melody Spann Cooper (WVON)
William D. Von Hoene (Excelon)

Ken Bennett (Choose Chicago)
Merca Bristo (Access Living)
Ellen-Blair Chube (William Blair)
Jamie Citron (Obama Foundation Dev. Chief of Staff)
Evelyn Diaz (Heartland Foundation)
Sidney Dillard (Loop Capital)
Brett Hart (United)
Perri Irmer (DuSable Museum)
Weldon Latham (Jackson Lewis, council lead attorney)
Langdon Neal (Neal and Leroy)
Nadia Quarles (UC Bus Dev)
Laura Ricketts (Chicago Cubs)
Eli Williamson (Leave No Veteran Behind)
Bernarda Wong (Chinese American Service League)

The larger post-Presidency team and objectives.

Chief of staff is Anita Decker Breckenridge. Valerie Jarrett is expected to take a highly active role both with the post-presidency and the Obama Center.
As tod by Valerie Jarrett to the press, Mr. Obama's top priorities (after vacation) are expected reported to be speaking out on the Affordable Care Act, district gerrymandering, and the Dreamers. Activities will be mentoring emerging and future Democratic leaders, keeping a line open to the new President, and fundraising and preparing for the Center. Both the Obamas are soliciting speaking engagements and are expected to write their memoirs. (If you want to make a speaking "ask," start with the All American Speakers Bureau.

MEETINGS, EVENTS etc. See near top of page.

Watch for the Foundation to appear at or hold meetings as the summer progresses.


President Obama, design team unveil concept design and program for the Center May 3, 2017. GO

Links to other views and m ore details



The main developments in May 2017 so far have been 1. unveiling of the initial design concept and model,
2. Showing and stakeholder/experienced discussion of initial landscaping, and
3. Clarification that the Foundation and Center will not take National Archives and Records Agency funds, be not part of the Presidential Library System and will be free
(to the extent allowed) of NARA restrictions, and will not be the repository of the physical records but only of digital access and temporary exhibits. (It was initially reported that the NARA would do the digitalization). It is called a Center, not a Library. The Foundation also released its economic impact and cost projection report.
Also, more is being disclosed about a proposed community development corporation.

May 3, 2017 at South Shore Cultural Center supporters and leaders of stakeholder groups held an invitation-only media event and discussion of the concept plan. A model and drawings were on view and the President shared his vision then took three questions-- not really answered but upon which he and the design team elaborated upon their inspiration and ideas and how they expected it to serve the community, starting now. Neither the design or the programming are set in stone and will be subject to much public input, they said.
As summarized in a Sun-Times release, the theme of Obama was, 'It's about hope' and inspiration. As for the plan, architect Dina Griffin said the design called for creating just one tall Museum building [up to 180 feet), and having two other 1-story buildings, a Forum overlooking a plaza and a Library, each covered with landscape, picnic areas, and community gardens Separately,
Friends of the Parks said it has not yet had time to review and again called for more comprehensive planning (which judging from its own release is heavily under way- once studies and coordination including with many groups are ready, a larger process can begin.)

The key takeaways are:

1. The Center is to be much more than a library (not a repository of records) and museum but a community programming center, especially for families and children including community and children's garden, sledding hill, a possible branch public library, and a new fieldhouse/recreation center (which along with a replacement track and field is expected to revert to the Chicago Park District), plazas and more for concerts, talks, community gatherings. It will have community meeting facilities and workshop areas to train the future leaders, teach trades and skills, including recording studios to which leading artists/musicians would come to lead workshops. Indeed, families would be welcome to survey the park and surroundings all the way to the loop from the landscaped roof deck of the main, signature building. The Center would be both a destination and a welcome and visitor's center for the park. The suggested parking garage (not part of the Center?) west of Stony would have a ramped bridge across Stony to the plaza and Musuem.
The design will be LEED v4 Platinum, take up 200,000 sq ft. but add green lawns to the park.
Some respected media critics called the design, especially of the Museum as a good beginning but needing work. Few thought the first model of he Museum very good. For the site, the model was already out of date and more changes were announced by the next week.

2. This is definitely more than a Center plopped down in a park, or a theft and sequestering off of parkland. It opens into and calls into the park. A goodly part of the space is landscape or plaza and, with a Cornell Drive segment removed, has broad pedestrian paths to the lagoons, Wooded Island, and the Museum of Science and Industry. With parking in a partially underground connected structure west of Stony it connects to the Midway and the Metra. (This is not a formal part of the Foundation grounds or plan; if it cannot be then parking will be under the children's/library section.) To the north, a pool with fountain will be inset in a re-done Perennial Garden.
The Center is porous and not separated from the park or surrounded by a security perimeter.
About two-thirds of the 21 acre footprint from 60th St. to 63rd is taken up by the Center, the rest by a new fieldhouse and the replacement track and artificial turf field (down to 63rd)--these will be across from Hyde Park High. The softball field is lost, but (not on the drawings) one of the soccer fields on 63rd will become a multi-purpose field. Also not brought up, if a new fieldhouse is located by the Center, the present one could be converted back to greenspace.

A drawback that has been drawn to the attention of the designers is that the connections into Woodlawn and the high school are weak, seeming to suggest an orientation to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago (where a 15 story hotel and an 8+ story zazzy conference center were announced a few days later for 60th street 2-3 blocks west of Stony. Also, the footprint was changed to go to 59th (incorporating the existing Perennial Garden into basin (as was originally conceived by Olmsted) and fountain. Traffic would go only around the north end of this, at the current 59th/North Midway segment between Cornell and Stony. Presumably, the area with proposed fieldhouse (later promised) and track would revert to the CPD to keep the footprint under 21 acres-- the path replacing Cornell and land down to the lagoon, even if landscaped by or with the Foundation, would also be park district land. The design teams say that about 5 acres of parkland would be gained by replacing Cornell-- but that could result in some loss along a possibly widened Stony Island.

This writer thinks there are subtle bows to history by the siting itself-- including the Columbian Exposition's women's building-- (women's struggle), women's hospital (healthcare and by stretch Obamacare?), children's building (struggle for children's rights and care and end of child labor), and horticulture building (reflected in the new gardens and Michelle's efforts on nutrition and child obesity). At least these historic connections were pointed out to the Foundation earlier. The new track will be near Olmsted's track and men's and women's gymnasia--one of the first spaces built in the park after the Fair.

3. The site is definitely structure-intensive, intentionally to provide a South Side similarity to Lincoln Park, Millennium Park, and Museum Campus-- indeed to be part of a "Museum Campus South" with MSI and DuSable. And many will not like that even if (or maybe especially if) the Center bleeds into and welcomes into the park.
Some will be put off by the covering over, landscaping or not, and the height of the signature Center building-- together the structures provide both "tall" and "sprawl" even if separated structures spread over the whole site is avoided. Many also will not want so much close to the natural area /lagoon even if the noise and busyness of Cornell Drive is removed. Some in the media called it "Obamaland."

4. Heavy programming (the part about barbecuing, food trucks, events and concerts/public presence and activity) is envisioned, some of it to this writer seeming over-the-top and needing to be managed so as to not affect wildlife and neighbors. That kind of programming also will offend many, but can perhaps be negotiated down. The President justified this under an appeal to Frederick Law Olmsted's vision of parks as for people-- Obama views the park as underused, especially for youth (without noting Olmsted's other dictum of parks as lungs for the city.

The height will also be a problem for many, and is IN a park--how does it relate to Olmsted's vision of expanses and vistas, including that it will cast shadows, including on Wooded Island and possibly the Midway. And some will like that glass is minimized (including for birds), or the suggestion of ancient Egyptian monuments may be liked or not.

The closure of Cornell Drive and possible resultant traffic congestion (despite denials and despite the community opposition to a widened Cornell 40 years ago in the first place) will also be controversial. The idea of closure was pushed by Obama, partly to create a campus with the MSI, provide access to Wooded Island, and because with Cornell Drive in place there are serious limits to what can be done on the site, especially for kids activities. May 15 The Chicago Tribune called upon the Foundation to come up with a road plan the serves commuters and communities.

Programs for youth include recording and filming studio and the arts, so youth can set forth their issues and ambitions.
TO THAT END, THE PROGRAM STARTS NOW, perhaps by a combination of online and off-site facilities, even though the Center won't be opened for another 4 years.
THE OBAMAS ARE PERSONALLY GIVING $2 M TO THE CHICAGO (AND COUNTY) YOUTH SUMMER JOBS PROGRAM. This will go to The Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (of Chicago Community Trust) and One Summer Chicago 2017.

6. The President was highly generous in his goals for Minority and Women participation, both firms and workers, 80% for some. And part of the program starting now will be career- and skill-building programs for both the trades and firms (including in architecture). He estimated about 3,000 construction and 200+ permanent jobs for the nearby neighborhoods alone. He was frank about how the goals are often evaded in Chicago and the work has to be done in a quality way- meaning training and preparation have to start now. He also gave thoughtful if not innovative views (this observer thought) about redevelopment in the community and ways in which more people can be a boon and the Center, thoughtfully designed, can encourage people to visit and spend in the community and not just get in their cars and drive away.

This was Obama's second visit to Chicago since leaving office - on the first he met with at-risk youth and spoke at an event downtown. That day he was also scheduled to speak to the Civic Club, and of course was meeting with the Foundation and donors. He said he will be back often.

There also continued to be calls for a community benefits agreement, in line, it was said, with Obama's background as a community organizer.

Foundation puts out RFP for Construction Management Firm. visit https:.//www.obama.org/request-qualifications-construction-manager-general-contractor.

Landscape architecture team meets with stakeholders May 10.

The team of Michael Van Valkenburgh, Heidi Natura's Living Habitats, and Jimmy Wong held an engaging discussion with a select group of stakeholders and landscape and garden experienced (including Chicago Botanic Garden) at Washington Park Refectory May 10. After extensive explanation of preliminary plans and graphics (already slightly out of date- for example a drop off area has been added on Stony), the team asked a series of questions to which audience responded and in turn answered many questions and took suggestions. The team seems to have looked at all the bases, although they did not yet have all the answers, such as to the best ways to activate community gardens and make them truly community or to connect the south part of the site to Woodlawn. The models and discussion showed the extent to which slope and elevation are used, extensive lawns and plaza, and how things are helped to be visually and physically connected. There were cautions, such as about over-activating the site (especially with its proximity to Wooded Island). But the audience seemed to be highly pleased and confident in the team -- about as informed, sensitive, and unstuffy as one could hope.

Another try: May 10 a large but select group (ranging from local organization leaders and stakeholders to Friends of the Parks and Chicago Botanic Gardens adn other landscape and natural landscapes experts) met at the Washington Park Refectory with the Landscape Design team for the Center--Michael Van Valkenburgh, Heidi Natura of Living Habitats, and Ernie Wong-- the last 2 are South Siders. They explained much of the rationale behind each element and integration, including the visitor's perspective and experience, and reasons Cornell Drive should go. Changes and adjustments were already underway and would continue. He asked the group's input on a number of options, and their concerns and ideas. One was that there needs to be better connection and invitation to Woodlawn- not easy with the railroad and the low income housing across the street. The team seemed very open and discerning, and very attuned to Olmsted.

Not a physical archives or part of the Presidential Libraries system or under National Archives and Records Agency (NARA) -or so it seems.

Obama and team had said at the May 3, 2017 design unveiling that the physical records (as opposed to memorabilia) would remain at a separate site maintained by NARA and that NARA had undertaken to digitalize the records and to make them (the non-classified ones) available online. (He did NOT say "exclusively" at the Center.) Small temporary exhibits of materials would be available as the Center-- it was not clear what of the special security, display, and other requirements of NARA would have to be provided.
As media asked questions and learned more from NARA and the Foundation over the next few days (including from the impact statement released May 11), it became more clear that under an agreement still under negotiation with NARA, the Foundation and Center WILL NOT BE PART OF THE PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARIES SYSTEM (or share in that prestige), WILL NOT RAISE THE ENDOWMENT of 60 percent of construction costs now required of libraries (that had been 20% before Obama), WILL NOT TAKE A SHARE OF THE $65m ANNUALLY PROVIDED FOR PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARIES- or have to pay a share for maintenance to NARA, AND WILL NOT HAVE TO FOLLOW (any? some? all?) the rules and governance of NARA including the structures' architectural and design standards. This could speed up the project. The architectural team told the Tribune that the design of the library building is no longer current because of these changes.

Darleen Glanton in the Tribune praised the decision and said it will free the Foundation and Center to do and be more for teh South Side adn Chicago.

May 11 the Foundation also released its (hefty and first) economic impact and cost study. Its projections included $2.1 billion on the South Side during construction and the first 10 years of operation. That level assumes, inter alia, 625,000 to 760,000 visitors a year. Also reported to be in the study: Construction will create c1,400 jobs bringing $86M to the South Side and $49M in taxes for the south tide and $2M for Cook County.
Similar estimates for ongoing operations for jobs, input into communities and businesses, and taxes are also projected over 5 and 10 years.

Cost for the Center through opening is forecast in the study to be $675M.

Also becoming clear is the major role of the Chicago Community Trust, working in conjunction with the Foundation and the University of Chicago, Rev. Brazier's 1Woodlawn/Network of Woodlawn. The Trust seeks to set up and partially fund a NFP Community Development Corporation to manage change and distribute funds for projects to revitalize the Woodlawn, Washington Park, and South Shore neighborhoods. This organization is being shopped and opposed. Supporters say we have to direct funds ourselves to be sure of the benefits and that current residents will not be driven out by rising housing costs and taxes.

February 2017 Alderman Hairston sends a letter to the Obama Foundation asking more engagement

More transparency on Obama library planning needed. As reported by Kathy Bergen in Chicago Tribune Feb. 14, 2017

(Ald. Hairston sent a letter to the Foundation saying the latter is not sharing enough information on how South Side residents will benefit.) "My primary concern is how the Obama Foundation plans to engage the community in the transformation of these neighborhoods.... Residents would like to know what is the plan for community outreach." (She also called for integrating planning for the Library with that for the golf courses conversion. She acknowledged that several groups are meeting, asking for CBAs.) "Without communication from the foundation, this can be detrimental to the Obama Presidential Center and the city of Chicago. This is not what everybody wants or what the foundation needs."

(Michael Strautmanis for the Foundation says in agreement,) "While our work has only just begun, we are committed to gathering robust community input at every step of the process. The Obama Presidential Center will be transformative for our community, creating jobs and spurring economic development across the area."

(Hairston said what is wanted is jobs in planning, architecture, construction , operations and professional services, customer services, event planning and concessions and job training for all of these plus concessions and retail opportunities, an early childhood education in science-technology-math.)

Here is the letter (whose tone is more nuanced than in the article above), as from Hyde Park Herald- Open letter to Obama Presidential Center from 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston.

It is undeniable the reality of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park is welcome news. For for too long, there has been little or no investment in South Side communities. So, the prospect of the OPC as an ongoing memorial of our nations's first black president is sure to be an economic generator for the neighboring communities of East Hyde Park, North South Shore and East Woodlawn, which I represent.

I foresee the OPC having an impact on these South Side communities similar to what the Clinton Presidential Center had on the downtown area of Little Rock, Arkansas, which was largely an old boarded-up warehouse district. The$160-million complex reportedly spurred another $700 million of commitments in other downtown projects. Already, we are seeing interest in these neighborhoods from outside developers. Also, the prospect of converting Jackson Park-South Shore golf courses into a PGA-caliber destination would not be as immediate if it were not for the OPC.

My primary concern is how the Obama Foundation plans to engage the community in the transformation of these neighborhoods. Resident would like to know what is the plan for community outreach. They want to know who will be responsible for vetting and making decisions for all aspects of the OPC, including operations. Obviously, the Foundation has the last word, but it is imperative to forge a working relationship that is transparent, honest, respectful, productive and protective of the African-American legacies of the OPC, residents an these communities.

Specifically, residents are interested in 1) jobs in planning, architecture, construction, operations and professional services; 2) job training programs that will prepare workers in the construction trades, customer services, event planning, and as independent contractors; 3) direct and indirect cocessi8on an retail opportunities; and 4) early childhood education in STEM. As we move from a work that uses skilled labor to one of computers and robotics, there needs to be a dedicated effort to develop a workforce who builds, trains, operates and maintains all equipment associated with th day-to-day operations of the OPC.

While not all-inclusive, these are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed by the Foundation. There also is the issue of how the proposed golf course and OPC will be integrated. They should be planned together. They are both a part of Jackson Park and residents would like to have a comprehensive picture of how transportation, park use and recreation will be addressed. This is what I call "community and connections."

Currently, there are a number of groups--inside and outside teh community--meeting and organizing to make demands of the Foundation. Without communication from the Foundation, this can be detrimental to the OPC and the City of Chicago. This is not what anybody wants or what the Foundation needs.

I realize that there may be far more pressure for community engagement with the OPC, than with other presidential centers. Given the urban setting and the history of President Barack Obama to the the city's South Side, it is urgent that he leaves a lasting legacy of how his Center benefited surrounding communities without displacing indigenous residents. It could serve as a model for how all development, taking place in underserved communities, should benefit the rooted residents an not the new transplants. I am prepared to assist you in every way possible to make the legacy the President and First Lady desire for their community.

February 15, 2017 Mr. Obama met with the Foundation and several stakeholders at Foundation hq in Harper Court and at the Hyatt Place Hyde Park, starting the process of fundraising, planning, and engagement for the Center. There were 4 meetings, one of them with community leaders. Among the fundraising conclaves were with Lester Crown and with Penny Pritzker and Brian Traubert.
The community leaders included Ald. Hairston, Toni Preckwinkle, Dr. Byron Brazier (Apostolic), Rev. Leon Finney (Metropolitan), Rev. Richard Tolliver (St. Edmonds), and Rev. Torrey Barrett (KLEO), Shari Runner of the Chicago Urban League, and reps from South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Regarding the community leaders conclave, Valerie Jarrett told the Sun-Times, "the president was very eager to hear suggestions from the community and to continue the dialogue with his team after he left."

Several groups are engaging in comprehensive planning to develop coordinated plans. Some are planning mainly for benefits for communities (written or not), others for the parks or for both. It is to be hoped that most of these will agree, will include a forward vision of the park, and be able to accommodate reasonable major changes while keeping the historic high vision of the parks.
At its February 13 2017 meeting, Jackson Park Advisory Council voted to establish a committee for park and projects planning and coordination. This committee will include representatives from proposing, planning and oversight agencies such as the Park District and the City, the Alderman's Office, and select stakeholder bodies and persons. The meetings will be closed to the press. The first meeting in early March concentrated on update reports from teh Obama Foundation and the Golf Alliance and comments on what the community wants to see as the planning progresses. Next meeting is in May.

Friends of the Parks position as of May 10 2017- there may be changes.

...we are now dealing with plans to locate the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. Friends of the Parks will continue to remind people that while we are thrilled that Chicago has the opportunity to host the Obamas' legacy, we don't agree that it should take up public parkland. However, we do not see a realistic legal strategy to combat it, and do not plan to sue. That also puts us in a difficult position, with folks on both ends of the spectrum challenging our strategy and our principles. We stand ready to take the heat and will carefully utilize our leadership position to promote the best possible outcome for this historic, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed, jewel of a park. We work every day to engage the Obama Foundation and a wide range of stakeholders in conversation and to call for transparent and comprehensive park planning for Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center.


July 27, 2016. Jackson Park selected for the Obama Library.
Read the official Foundation Release, July 29, 2016.
Statement by the President and the Foundation 7/29/16
Obama Foundation Announces Jackson Park as Site of the Obama Presidential Center 7/29/16.

To meeting with HPKCC. To community and other takes. To Friends of the Parks statement.

Marty Nesbit, chair of the Foundation, is quoted in the Announcement: "For the first time a presidential center will be in the heart of an urban community. The President and First Lady are proud that the Foundation is Developing the Obama Presidential Center in the South Side, a community that they call home. The President and First Lady believe that locating the Presidential Center at Jackson Park will have the greatest long term impact on the combined communities. With its aesthetics, iconic location, historical relevance from the World's Fair, we believe Jackson Park will attract visitors on a national and global level that will bring significant long term benefits to the South Side."
Dr. Byron T. Brazier, Pastor of Apostolic Church of God, Mayor Emanuel, and the Director of the KLEO Foundation were also quoted as welcoming on behalf of Woodlawn and the City and committing to working for economic growth and full community participation.

From the December 2016 JPAC Newsletter

Thinking about the Library (visit obamapresidentialfoundation.org). By Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC secretary
A number of collaborations and individuals have begun comprehensive thinking about impacts and improvements possible from or in addition to the coming Library. The city and Foundation set up an Inclusion Council, but this seems mainly to be concerned with fundraising and outreach at this point. The Foundation’s VP for Civic Engagement, Michael Strautmanis is holding a steady stream of small and larger community input meetings (as are aldermen). mstrautmanis@obamapresidentialfoundation.org.

Two groups, one led by Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization and Southside Together (STOP) prepared draft Community Benefits Agreements dealing with both community and park needs and pointing out site challenges. Both the Foundation and the City have so far been reluctant to have a formal CBA.

Dr. Brazier of Apostolic Church of God is holding ongoing separate convocations (so far by invitation) of business, stakeholder, and broader community groups (soon) with the Presidential Foundation, Chicago Park District, the City, CPS and officeholders to come up with community improvements that might dovetail directly or indirectly with the Library as well as challenges the Library presents. As part of the stakeholder group, JPAC, Jackson Park Watch, Project 120 representatives, and U of C are among many that shared and discussed ideas. Minutes are promised to be posted publicly online—to be announced soon.

The practicalities. It has become evident that the planning phase for the Library itself will be long, and that decisions on specific aspects will determine or affect others, inside and outside of the 20 acre overall site and 5 acre facility footprint-- and to the overall extent of change in the park. That and the fact that no private or public money have yet been assembled for facilities in the park or in the communities despite ambitious ideas being explored. Important regarding the park are 1) the exact siting of the 5-acre Center within the 20 acres, and 2) whether parking will be on or off site (out of the park)-- these plus over all site use and security and maybe whether and what changes happen to Cornell Drive will likely affect whether and where current sports/picnic facilities will move. If the track moves (within the park) that could spark other moves. JPAC and users of course hope and expect that there will be no or minimal down time for any sports facilities. And JPAC members and park users of course are discussing both making sure there are not environmental, circulation or other setbacks due to the Library and construction and many hope for a variety of updates or improvements long sought, including for the present or possible replacement fieldhouse.
This writer has assembled information, documents and links about the Library and what people are thinking and saying about it in http://www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac/ObamaPLibrary.htm.

LEFT OUT OF THE ABOVE because confirmations were not available: how to get from here to there apparently runs through the Golf Course. December 18, Mayor Emanuel and Parks Supt. Mike Kelly announced a $30 M redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses to include both tournament class golf and youth golf development. (See the golf page (www.hydepark.org/parks/jpac/golf.htm) for details on how this may play out). President Obama personally asked Tiger Woods and his firm to design the course. Likely: when the golf driving range is relocated south of 63rd/Hayes, the current soccer fields incl. north of 63rd will go there as well as a Great Lawn be created (restoration of Olmsted feature envisioned by Project 120) that could include picnic grounds and open up a part of the park pinched against Lake Shore Drive. The artificial turf field and track on Stony Island by 62nd that is in the path of the Library would go where the current soccer fields are now between 63rd and the east lagoon. The golf proposal, although first talked about in 2000, is thus now clearly linked to the coming of the Library and other changes (planned or unplanned) for surrounding neighborhoods.
Also, it is evident that the golf and Foundation people envision working together for overall site redevelopment, fundraising, creating a golf course that would both serve the President and friends and host tournaments raising funds for the needs of both and social aims of both including youth programming while enhancing neighborhood development.


Thoughts, Reports, notices, and responses. (Visit Friends of the Parks responses.) (A community benefits agreement?)

The Foundation has already begun doing good in communities. December 7 2016 Chicago Tribune reported the Foundation commissioned 26 pieces of art from artists with cognitive disorders involved with Project Onward, based in Bridgeport. The pieces are hung in its hq in Harper Court. Subjects range from the First Family including Michelle's gardening projects to Jackson Park's Japanese Garden.

According to the Chicago Tribune online, "President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have selected historic Jackson Park, just east of the University of Chicago, as the site for the Obama Presidential Center, a source confirmed Wednesday. A formal announcement is expected next week.

"In choosing this linear stretch of green space over Washington Park, the other finalist site, the Obamas have opted for the less challenging of the two options. Both gracious South Side parks were designed by legendary 19th Century landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, but the Jackson Park site is cloaked in a more powerful collection of assets.

"Located near the Museum of Science and Industry, the lakefront and the eastern edge of the University of Chicago campus, the site allows for the creation of a museum campus in the heart of the park, accented by an existing lagoon, lush woods and greenery. The winding 543-acre park is an oasis on the South Side. The center would be a short hop to either Lake Shore Drive or to two Metra train stations, strong pulls for visitors.

"Jackson Park's western edge along Stony Island Avenue connects with Woodlawn, an impoverished African-American neighborhood but one that is beginning to gentrify. And the Hyde Park neighborhood, just north of Woodlawn and surrounding the university, already is booming.

"All these attributes give the location a leg up on the long-neglected Washington Park neighborhood.

"Still, the challenge of revitalizing poor African-American neighborhoods can be overwhelming and often ends in failure—presenting the Obamas with an enormous task as they seek to position the center as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization.

"The hurdles would have been higher in the neighborhood near Washington Park [the Foundation felt]..." others thought that was a reason the more needful neighborhood (disappointed by the failure of the Olympic bid) should have gotten the Library.

The Tribune and other sources continued by mentioning the synergy with Museum of Science and Industry (and other institutions) as a Museum Campus South (which already has a nucleus including MSI, Smart, Robie House, and DuSable).

Yet there is worry about gentrification and high-end infill of depopulated Woodlawn and skyrocketing rents all around, -- neighbors need to figure out how to stay here, leaders said, even though retail, affordable housing (POAH) and other amenities have started and more will come.

And there is not only that the Center would take up relatively-open space in a park, an historic one, but is near Wooded Island (Paul H. Douglas Nature Center), preservationists and supporters of nature and open lands in the city were quoted.

Mayor Emanuel with Ald. Hairston, Cochran, and King has already (last Friday) begun setting up the Advisory Committee for the Library, according to Lynn Sweet in the August 4 Sun-Times.
Andrea Zopp, deputy mayor and chief development officer, will lead the formation or the council.
Members according to Sweet, besides the above are to be representatives of the Foundation, South Side community groups, the city, the Park District, and the University.
Zopp told Sweet, "The first step is to figure out what type organization it will be." She said she envisions, at least eventually, a nonprofit organization especially for leveraging the benefits and economic spinoffs [to at least the entire South Side]. Zopp added that will be hiring consultants for setting all this up and getting funds.
At least two coalitions are preparing either processes for expectations or draft community benefit agreements-- one led by KOCO and STOP, the other by 1Woodlawn/Apostolic Church.
A major unknown, judging from media comments, is the role of the University of Chicago, especially once the Institute et al are opened. President Zimmer's statement at the press conference indicated the University expects to have a major role in programming at the least. (The National Archives will manage the records and papers part of the Center, likely either the Foundation or a nonprofit will manage the rest.)

Regarding the August 3 press conference on the back patio and stairs of the Museum of Science and Industry, the press focused on 1) assurances that the Center's programs and benefits will be directed towards both the Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods, in response to disappointment and fear of being shut out on the part of the people of Washington Park, and indeed will extend to the whole South Side, and 2) the selection of Jackson Park was made largely on its beauty, iconic status and location and its history including the legacy of the Columbian Exposition and hence prestige and ability to attract visitors. and its synergy with neighboring academic institutions and museums--and of course the Lakefront.

Nesbitt said, as in the August 4 Chicago Tribune, "Although we've chosen Jackson Park, our support for the efforts in both neighborhoods for growth and engagement... will be focused on Washington Park just as much as we are on Jackson Park and...Woodlawn..." "Jackson Park, with its aesthetics, its iconic location and historical relevance of the world's Fair, we just think it will attract visitors from a national level, a local level, and bring significant benefits to both communities." He also noted, as quoted by Lynn Sweet and Mary Mitchell in the Sun-Times, the choice seemed difficult, "but the president and the first lady saw that both sites were exceptional locations, and we actually didn't think we ended up having to choose between them, that his is actually one community and the distinction between Washington Park and Woodlawn is really an artificial one. We think locating the center here is probably the best way to benefit the larger South Side."

He also referred to the complex as the South Parks, their original name.

Mayor Emanuel noted enhancements coming to the Washington Park neighborhood: "...and I want to make sure the entire city of Chicago and specifically the South Side benefits from this once-in-a-lifetime cultural and educational investment." Spokespersons reiterated the Mayor's commitment to replace parkland occupied by the Center.

Mr. Straut goes to the HPKCC Conference board August 4, 2016

Michael Strautmanis, Vice President for Civic Engagement, Obama Presidential Foundation, talked and answered questions at the August 4 2016 monthly board meeting of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.
He knows that "civic engagement" is difficult today as people have been made skeptical because it's difficult for most people and even community leaders to have a voice or be listened to, and even desired development is often done poorly. That's why, he said, it's so important for the foundation to make an unusual effort to reach out to many in many ways. He asked in turn that people give them the benefit of the doubt in the short term and that they come to him and the foundation with concerns and questions first rather than to the media first.

Architects have been chosen just recently, and while lots of ideas and data, including about the surrounding communities and parks have been given to and examined by the Foundation, there is as of yet no plan, let alone a design-- it will take up to two years to get to that stage. Construction will not start before 2018 and the Center not opened before 2021. The center will have the archives, museum experience (Foundation board member Thelma Golden of the Theater of Harlem is overseeing ideas for this, he said), Foundation, restaurant and comfort facilities, and other stuff including likely arts performance, sports and a garden. He said lots of partnerships and an umbrella partnership need to be developed right away-- he hoped the Conference will be part of that. He said that a chief charge the Obamas gave to the Foundation is, how will this facility and it programs help a young Michelle or Barack reach for and be prepared for what they could be?

Questions: "Why was Jackson Park chosen?" The President and First Lady made the selection-- they were provided lots of information, but the decision was theirs. The number one deciding factor was tourism, ability to draw including on an international level. Related to that were the attributes of the park-- what it has been, is, and can be including connectivity to the Museum of Science and Industry, lakefront, lagoons (all things the first couple love, maybe including the golf course, he said). A reason for not going with Washington Park was resident's expressed fear of rapid displacement-- but they recognized also the disappointment there and so want to make sure that area shares in the benefits. The city is committed to helping both communities.
"Will the Obamas themselves live here?" He didn't think they have decided that, may go back and forth at least until the kids have graduated. They are likely to keep the house.
"What is the Foundation looking for from community partners?"
1. Community organizations and services should be doing better, setting priorities, getting and disseminating data, working together more than at present and wants communities to organize
to get what they want, including around issues such as housing.
2. Look at communities and the parks-- what do users want and give those things to Foundation as priorities and how to do things.

Priorities from the board: 1. Address the track and field, other existing facilities before start construction so there is no down time and use is seamless. Seek funders for the same. A new and better track, for example, can be the first visible sign of change for the better coming, and build trust. S- agrees.
2. Fix Hyde Park High School and help those kids. This is a key to bringing up all the schools in Woodlawn. Mentioned: the President met with the BAM students in the high school.
3. Noting that this space is a community and family picnicking space on weekend summers, make sure there are spaces for this.

From JPAC September 2016 Minutes re Mr. Strautmanis at JPAC

Obama Presidential Library. Michael Strautmanis, Vice President for Civic Engagement and Christopher Brooks, head of real estate and Senior Project Manager, the Obama Presidential Foundation discussed progress so far and answered questions. Main takeaways: The city and park district are committed to replacement of existing facilities including the track before work begins on the Library and to a full and honest traffic/parking study and solution. Site study and design work will take about two years, then the construction will take place, with the Center opening in 2021. Right now there is just a spreadsheet of space needs. (Dina Griffin, head of the design co-team IDEA will come to a JPAC meeting soon.)The Foundation knows that the benefits have to come to the greater south side and are working, for example with Rev. Brazier, Dr. Tony Barrett and four aldermen to determine programming and economic impact. There needs to be a public decision-making process, which the Foundation is discussing now. The structure of the Foundation as a 501 was explained. Questions and ideas should be directed to Mike at mstrautmanis@obamapresidentialfoundation.org.

September 29 Victoria Ranney, expert on Jackson Park and author of Olmsted in Chicago spoke a the Friends of the Parks Walter Netsch Lecture.

Ms. Ranney gave a lushly illustrated history of Jackson Park, particularly the Library site, and Olmsted's vision and involvement. She noted that he not only acquiesced with structures on Wooded Island but originally sited the administration building for the Fair on the library site--instead, the big feature was the horticulture building. After the Fair, he set an outdoor double-gymnasium and track similar to what he designed along the Charles River in Boston, at the site along Stony Island, where the present track is. She noted also that the site is where Jackson meets the Midway on the way to Washington Park--including a water route and lagoons from the Lake that he expected people to actively use and enjoy--and that it is important that we continue to think, as Olmsted did, of the three parks as one South Park System and as nodes in the Boulevard System he designed.

So how do we carry Olmsted's vision and the spirit of the park forward and use the Library to revitalize the parks and the communities? All of these require a public process.


COMMUNITY TAKES on the selection and place needs
Community Benefits Agreement?

Many point out that there are challenges as well as opportunities to placement of the Center in Jackson Park.
Concerns expressed include:
Keeping the circulation and flow of the park and the nearby streets and arterials-- this could require encouraging a circular access via LSD and 63rd to parking at the south end of the site. Whether the Center and its draw will have negative impacts on traffic etc. remains unknown. It also means rebuilding the Darrow Bridge route for bikes and pedestrians.
Minimizing disruption of developed sections in the site, especially the track and field-- if that has to move, the decision needs to be made soon and arrangements made.
Minimizing building sprawl and loss of excessive open space without going high or in other ways impacting views and outlooks and Olmsted's vistas from the Wooded Island. This might include placement of parking outside the park.
Minimizing hydrologic and other disruptions or impact on Wooded Island, especially during construction.
Improving and expanding the park's facilities including but not limited to restrooms and of its programming and welcoming capacity (ability to tell the story and enhance the experience of nature, park and history).

Community benefits agreement (CBA)? Some groups (esp. the coalition of KOCO and STOP with Prayer Action Coalition and later Bronzeville Regional Collaborative) called for a Community Benefits Agreement-- and were expected to adopt a draft September 29 2016: what improvements are going to come to the park itself and the community; what about only 5 acres in new parkland (where?) coming vs. 20 acres sequestered by the Center? How is displacement of residents prevented? Others pointed to the constraints of the site-- narrow, high water table: how to make it look good and not be a sprawl or high-rise detracting from the natural areas or imposing on Stony Island or making roads even more crowded. And what to do about the track and field if they need to be lost.
But many many said this is a spark of hope, especially for the kids: what host of ancillary improvements can come including to transit and housing. And that the challenges are just that, not reasons to not welcome.
Alex Goldenberger told DNAinfo in December 2016 (December 11 article by Sam Cholke) they are still working off the general principles from September centered around hiring and minority/women businesses. affordable housing, and programming for kids in the immediate area. However, they were engaging residents of affordable or mixed income building in writing letters to the President calling attention to real possibilities they might be evicted or priced of their neighborhoods. An example being the Island Terrace Apartments at 6430 S. Stony Island, which had a commitment but was bought by another party in recent years. The resident's council wants a commitment in writing from the Foundation. (The Foundation, city, and UC have so far resisted a CBA or special agreements.)

A link to a Washington Post article January 19, 2017 suggesting listening to the call for a CBA- https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/01/19/one-way-for-obama-to-secure-his-legacy-make-sure-his-library-helps-the-south-side/?utm_term=.6a9013a235b6.

Statement of STOP for the Coalition for CBA April 12, 2017 WITH LINK TO READ THE COALITION PRINCIPLES and meeting date. Devondrick Jeffers writes

Good Neighbors,
Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), along with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), the Bronzeville Regional Collective (BRC), and the University of Chicago student-led Prayer and Action Collective (PAC), last year created the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, a grass-root organization primed to secure a legally-binding CBA with developers of the incoming Obama Presidential Center: the Obama Foundation, of course, but crucially, also the University of Chicago, which proposed the center’s location on the South Side — and the City of Chicago and related entities like the Chicago Park District.

The development, being built on public parkland in Jackson Park, is already demanding $1.5 billion in fundraising. Meanwhile, —in the communities surrounding the library site live Black and low-income families facing issues of crime, un/underemployment, underfunded public schools, and limited access to affordable housing. While residents welcome the Obama Presidential Center and cherish the legacy and cultural impact of President Obama, they will not allow new investment and new interest generated by the Obama Presidential Center to forgo or overshadow much needed investment in their communities. Residents want employment and economic development opportunities, added educational resources for public schools, and affordable housing set-asides; see details in Development Principles worked out by hundreds of South Side residents, at ObamaCBA.org/principles.

On Tuesday, April 18th from 6 PM - 7:30 PM at Hyde Park High School, join us in saying, "We need a Community Benefits Agreement!"

A snapshot- another in ongoing coalition meetings with Foundation officers was held in August 2016 in Huckleberry Park seeking a written Agreement- that the benefits be made to happen and shared-- paid training for and guarantee of temporary and permanent jobs (set asides) paying more than minimum wage and having prospects for advancement, supports and contracts for local Black businesses, better (neighborhood)schools with student internships and scholarships, amenities and enrichment for all ages, commercial revival, affordable housing, a tax freeze in light of rising property values and available land being scooped up-- many being things that the Library alone can't bring but public-private-institutional, foundation and Library Foundation partnerships together might. Other recommendations included that, according to the Herald, "profits from the OPC could be allocated to ara teen centers or low-income housing, as well as a demand [for the aforementioned] property tax freeze."

By September, the Community Benefits Agreement Coalition had consolidated the topics (vetted at breakouts) into employment, economic development, education, housing, transportation, and sustainability. Their statement read, "We universally agree that the Obama Presidential Center has the power and duty to help restore suffering south side communities in innovative ways, and to begin leveling the playing field historically pitched against African Americans... While we recognize the old ways of developing black communities have not created community wealth, we see the exciting potential to develop differently now. We aim to catalyze measurable adn sustainable increases in our community wealth and well-being through sustainable, inter-generational land ownership and transfer, increased revenue streams through neighbor-owned businesses and buildings; and revived resources for Vibrant lifelong learning.

The foundation and the city (and UC) are very reluctant to grant any written commitment saying the Center will be the benefit and spark other benefits, and it remained unclear what role the Foundation's Inclusion Council will play in all this. The relevant aldermen declined to comment or commit to a CBA. Many community players and leaders are reluctant to do anything that could spook or lose the Center or, as Mattie Butler, director of WECAN told the Tribune, "embarrass the President"- the first African American president associated with Chicago and Chicago's South Side. Butler said Obama wouldn't or shouldn't be embarrassed, having gotten his political start as a community organizer on the South Side.) A CBA is not a new idea, and several major CBAs have been made around the country including for Olympics including Chicago's bid, and many worked well in this century alone.
The official stance of the Foundation is
"This Presidential Center is for the Community... The President and First Lady have lived in this community and their children were born in this community. The plan is for the center to be developed in a way that benefits everyone in the community, uses broad collaboration with the community, and embraces engagement with the community." They point to the committee/commission being organized by Andrea Zopp-- a commission whose members as of this writing were not identified but were thought to include among locals the area's aldermen and Rev. Brazier. (Rev. Brazier has convened his own sets of stakeholders vetting what is needed in the communities and how to get it done).
Mayor Emanuel, asked about CBA, sidestepped but said he wants improvements (or that are?) linked to the Library, according to the Tribune, "The Obama Presidential Center will offer a variety of educational, cultural and economic benefits, and the mayor is committed to working with all stakeholders--including the community--to maximize the positive impact on the South Side."
The two groups most involved right now- KOCO and STOP led a successful campaign the was certainly an instrumental, maybe decisive factor in getting the U of C to commit to a trauma center, and KOCO-led coalition won the reopening of Dyett school (The Library prospects perhaps playing a role in both also.) Two keys will be bringing more groups together around a good draft, and Rev. Byron Brazier who leads not only Apostolic Church of God near the Library site but the One Woodlawn Coalition. (A public meeting about One Woodlawn plan was expected maybe in September 2016.) Other pastors including Rev. Jeffery Campbell of Woodlawn Baptist according to the Tribune want all to coalesce around a common package.

Blair Kamin, Tribune architecture critic, said (July 29 Tribune) that Jackson, with both formal (including the proven visitor draw -MSI) and bucolic landscapes framing the site, and being close to the Lakefront (and the Drive) and an anchor educational institution, and with the legacy of the Fair including the Golden Lady, was the more conventional choice (maybe cautious, prudent, realistic, boring), waiting for an architectural jewel. Still, he said, Jackson Park and its environs can be looked at as only "somewhat safe"; Stony Island Avenue south of 60th is underwhelming; shootings and other problems rise as one goes toward the west side of Woodlawn (and th alternative could be runaway gentrification). The site is long and narrow, limiting options, Cornell and Stony are busy roads, and Metra forms a wall. Getting to other closeby institutions and museums will not be easy, including from the two Metra stations. On the other hand choosing the mid-South spreads the cultural and actual wealth vs. concentration in the central core. In short, building this will be a "three-dimensional game of chess."

The Sun-Times (editorial July 28) said it is hard to argue with the choice 'though Washington Park could have been helped more: "The presidential library and musuem still will be on the South Side, still in an impoverished neighborhood that could use the boost, and still be within a walk or bus ride for the generations of kids who stand to be inspired by the story it will tell." The Sun-Times assessed that the options to reach the library were balanced between the two sites. They urged that the Library tell the whole story and not pull punches. Other Sun-Times articles called for a substitution for the well-used track, providing more things for kids to do.

Louise McCurry, JPAC President (as quoted in the Sun-Times and witnessed by this writer): "It's a wonderful thing for the children of Chicago and a wonderful thing for families because they feel safe in Jackson Park. They tell us by the numbers. We have people from all over the world wo come to Jackson Park to see the Museum of Science and Industry. It's a place President and Mrs. Obama are familiar with. It's also beautiful. It's close to the lakefront an has wonderful natural areas. Beaches wil be close to the library. There are wonderful bicycle paths. You can make a day of it and ride through the park. We're a great place to be. It's a safe community and it's the President's community." [It's] wonderfully served [by mass transit.} Thousand of people come here every day. We have three [CTA says ten] bus lines... we have two trains [Metra Electric] and the South Shore line. We have wonderful bicycle path built for the 1893 World's fAir. All come directly to the site. We have some of the best transportation in the city." "Our park is a huge park with lots of open space. This will just make better use of the space we have. If the presidential library is a way to get more kids into nature and green space and convince them to start looking at themselves as being leaders, it is a totally wonderful thing."

Of course, leaders in the Advisory Council believe some of the credit goes to JPAC and the hundreds of volunteers in the park (and user groups) whose years of hard work and advocacy, in conjunction with the Park District and its staff, who made a presentable and relatively safe park and showed people use and commitment.

(This writer did a historical examination of what was actually on the site before, since the Fair -- very little except of course trees that lasted, mainly the modern track and field with an older comfort station to the south.)

Jackson Park Watch in a statement welcomed the Library and mentioned many of the same benefits, but asked a moratorium on other changes or projects-- others either said the Library is just another item to consider in the overall public process, or were in opposition.

Ald. Cochrane (20th) said there would be joy and disappointment no matter which site were chosen. It is a big disappointment for the Washington Park area to be jilted twice (Olympics being the first), "but it just demonstrated the value of the community. And that value has not been lost by the fact that they've ben a bridesmaid twice. all it does is give us an opportunity to expand that community and prepare for development without dominating influence." He cited the coming CTA station upgrade and the performance center et al coming to Garfield Blvd. "Development is regional. I cannot conceive of the Washington Park community not benefiting from the presidential library even if it is in the community of Woodlawn."

Two highly informed and involved neighbors took opposite views.

Vreni Naess cc'd her letter to the Foundation to Good Neighbors, expressing her disappointment, saying the Center in Washington Park would much more beneficial impact than in the Jackson Park area and so diminishes the Obama legacy.
Fran Vandervoort, a board member of JPAC writing on her own behalf, responded to Good Neighbors that:

Of the two parks being considered for the Obama Library, the better choice is Jackson Park. Placing the library in Washington Park would have resulted in the destruction of the only arboretum in a Chicago park -- the stretch of mature shade trees on the west side of the park between 51st and 55th Streets. Washington Park should be recognized as by far the most "natural" of the two parks, with gentle lagoon shorelines sheltering bullfrogs and crayfish, lagoons fed by ancient springs, and nesting sites for many more species of birds than Jackson Park. Jackson Park, for all its beauty, is now in its 4th renovation since 1870. The lagoon edges have been massaged, molded and artificially shored up for more than 150 years.

Construction of the Obama Library in Washington Park would do irreparable damage. Building it in Jackson Park will do little harm to the Park, and could conceivably make parts of it better.

This said, it's unfortunate that so little consideration was given to building the Library in that degraded area between Martin Luther King Drive and CTA Green Line elevated station on 55th Street. This would have benefited the entire area.

Openlands said it was disappointed that most of library did not go into the land outside Washington Park, sighting the historic and environmental sensitivity of both park sites, especially the Washington Park Arboretum.

Friends of the Parks statement July 27 2016 (see also August 3 statement below):

You have probably heard the unofficial news that the Obama library is coming to Jackson Park, per recent media coverage of the issue:

DNA Info
Chicago Magazine
Chicago Business
[Chicago Sun-Times]

Friends of the Parks strongly opposes the idea that parkland be used for development. Back during the period when the City was preparing its bid for the presidential library and when the President and First Lady were deciding which city to choose, Friends of the Parks repeatedly voiced our excitement about Chicago hosting the Obama Library while clearly articulating our opposition to using parkland. When the University of Chicago's bid was ultimately chosen, we again welcomed the library to Chicago while repeating our disapproval of the use of parkland. We have said over and over again that the 11 acres of vacant land--owned by the University of Chicago, the City, and the Chicago Transit authority--across the street from Washington Park are a much more appropriate site.

We are disappointed that the Obama Foundation has chosen to utilize parkland. But as that is the reality that we face, we will continue to call for minimal damage to the integrity of the historic, Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park and for the addition of green space in the area to make up for parkland that will be utilized.

Friends of the Parks will release an official statement on these issues when the formal announcement about the library's location is made by the Obama Foundation, which is rumored to be sometime next week. At that time, we will also provide more detail as to our reasons for not pursuing a lawsuit to block this project, despite our disagreement with its location in a park.

August 3, 2016 Friends of the Parks Obama Presidential Center Press Statement

Chicago, Illinois - Friends of the Parks warmly welcomes the Obama Library to Chicago's South Side, but reiterates dismay at the use of existing parkland in Jackson Park rather than abundant vacant land nearby.

"However, the organization will not sue as it is our understanding that the site that was chosen apparently is not public trust land-unlike the proposed sites for the Lucas Museum," said Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry. "Friends of the Parks' analysis suggests that there is no realistic legal remedy at this time to protect this public open space from this development."
Since the public discussion began in 2014 about the possibility of Chicago being chosen as the site for the Obama Presidential Library, Friends of the Parks has said that the organization is excited about the "once in a lifetime" opportunity to host Obama's presidential legacy on the south side where the President and First Lady have a deep connection to the community. Friends of the Parks has also said from the beginning that Friends of the Parks objects to the use of existing parkland for the Obama Library. We will continue to voice that concern.

Chicago ranks 12th on a list of the most-densely populated cities in the country in terms of parkland per 1000 residents. President Obama is familiar with these statistics and knows the importance of parks in the lives of ordinary people. In fact, as a young community organizer, Mr. Obama came to Friends of the Parks and asked how we might work together to increase park space in South Side communities.

"We admire President Obama's record as a champion of the environment. Friends of the Parks similarly has a deep commitment to the protection and preservation of the public's use of and access to open space," said Friends of the Parks Board Chair Lauren Moltz. "Friends of the Parks looks forward to working with the Foundation, the City, the Chicago Park District and the University of Chicago to protect and promote parkland, public space and public access. We would like to ensure that any impact on historic Jackson Park will be minimal and preserve the integrity of Frederick Law Olmsted's design."

Since the announcement was made in May 2015 that the Obamas chose Chicago for the library and would pick a site in either Washington Park or Jackson park, we have urged the Obama Foundation to take any and all necessary steps to ensure the impact on either park is minimal and that any construction fits with the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted's design. In that respect, we continue to urge the Obama Foundation to conduct a study by outside and independent experts to assess the possible adverse environmental impacts in the construction of the library on open land and on the original artistic design of the park. To that end, Friends of the Parks hopes to work with the Foundation, the City and the University to find ways to protect and add to parkland and public space and public access, to offset any adverse environmental impacts or loss of open space.

"The design of the Obama Library should maximize the use of available vacant land and underground space, and be truly 'park positive' by adding parkland to the surrounding community," said Juanita Irizarry. "Furthermore, any design should upgrade the park's facilities and preserve existing recreational uses by the public."

Moving forward, Friends of the Parks urges the Foundation to work closely with the surrounding community to address community benefit agreements, public access to these parks as well as regular communication with all stakeholders. We look forward to working with the Obama Foundation, the City, the Chicago Park District, the University of Chicago and the community on implementing the recommendations of an open space coalition and as a consulting party for any historic preservation assessments of Jackson Park.

Some experts on presidential libraries and on institutions have asserted that the public and scholarly value added by "presidential temples" is not enough to justify the spending by the federal archives or local entities such as park districts.


November 2016 archival material began to be moved from DC to the processing warehouse in the NW suburbs of Chicago. The first C-15 load arrived at O'Hare 3rd week of Feb 2017.

June 30, 2016. Foundation release site: http://www.barackobamafoundation.org/meet-the-architects.
See reduction of the following information with commentary by Gary Ossewaarde
To selection of the landscape team. Museum team

June 30, 2016, The Obama Presidential Foundation announced selection of the firm of Tod Williams/Billie Tsien architects (TWBTA), in partnership with Interactive Design Architects (IDEA) (308 E. Erie, headed by South Sider Dina Griffin). Addition of Interactive, which had not been an applicant, was reportedly suggested by several of the competing design teams as a local partner. Noted was that in a diversity-challenged field, two of the three principals in the combined team are women , one Asian-American and the other African-American. Major works of Williams/Tsien are the University of Chicago Logan Center just a few blocks from the identified sites for the Library, the Barnes Foundation art museum in Philadelphia, the American Folk Art Museum in New York (torn down by MoMA), and a Highlands, NJ concrete pavilion. Williams and Tsien were awarded a National Arts award by Obama. Interactive, a qualified minority-owned firm smaller than Williams/Tsien, assisted on the Art Institute Modern Wing, the Eckhardt Center at University of Chicago, reclading of Chicago's Anti-cruelty Society, and others. Griffin is a former leader in the National Organization of Minority Architects. Dina Griffin, a native Chicagoan and Kenwood Academy graduate and her husband, who have lived in and had institutional connections in Hyde Park-Kenwood, are well known to South Siders including some members of JPAC.
In March, Williams/Tsien appointed Chicago architect and Kenwood resident ___ Larsen to the firm and the project.

Marty Nesbitt says in the Foundation release, “These two firms have a history of building spaces that tell meaningful stories—spaces that bring communities together and create experiences designed to inspire and empower people.”
DETAILS on the architect selection.

Deciding factors cited for the Tsien team, architect of the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, said to have impressed the Obamas, were experience, personal chemistry with the Obamas, to whom Williams and Tsien were certainly not strangers, and sensitivity to the spirit and plans of Olmsted and Vaux. Foundation chairman Martin Nesbit, as quoted by Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times, said "One of the things that stood out" in the Williams/Tsien proposal was the respect they showed for the Olmsted and Vaux park designs, Chicago's architectural legacy, and "the history and incredible potential of the neighboring community." Advisor and architectural critic Paul Goldberger said that the purpose at present was to choose the architect, not the design (no designs were shown at the briefing)--"The real design process begins anew, right now; it's really a blank slate." The concepts are "thoughtful, dignified, beautiful and understated." Nesbit added, "the building will have to speak for itself." The approach of each of the Obama's was said by one of the applicants to be complementary rather than identical: Barack has a strong interest in an architecturally strong, artistic building. Michelle is more concerned with the feel, flow and working of the spaces. Nesbit emphasized the latter, as quoted in the Tribune: "This building alone is not the point here, but it's what happens in the center."

The task is complex as the Center has to include the archives and library, a strongly interactive and immersive museum, programmatic space, an Institute of Civic Engagement, the foundation offices, dining, and a presidential suite-- not to mention parking/accommodation of visitors and security. Also, the Center must strongly connect with and transform the specified urban, African-American neighborhoods and have impacts throughout the entire South Side. Exactly how will the complex be welcoming and secure and respectful of park needs and heritage all at the same time and not a land-hog? How will it mesh existing community and conditions and a vision for change-- who defines these? The answers will differ between the sites.

The site selection, Jackson or Washington Park, has slipped. Any possibility of a switch to a nearby site that includes no part of a park seems to be ruled out by the offered concepts, closely honing to the requirements of each of the Olmsted parks. Selection is called "very soon" or "before the end of the year."

January 30 2017 the Foundation announced selection of the Landscape team, in response to RFP.

They have their work cut out for them, but their chops give good hope. One of the most vexing tasks will be deciding what to do with the roads- already the foundation has suggested or floated closure of Cornell Drive (met with opposition immediately) and (in conjunction with the Golf proposal, Marquette Drive (if the feasibility study so indicates.)
Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA)- New York-based is lead, with Chicago firms Site Design Group (Erie Wong) and Living Habitats (Heidi Natura).
Van Valkenburgh's projects include the 606 Trail, Maggie Daley Park, One Bennett Park tower (in planning), New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park (and the High Trail?). Site Design - Ping Tom Park, Palmisano Park. It is a certified minority-owned firm. Living Habitats is a certified woman-owned firm.

CEO David Simas: "This highly skilled and diverse team stood out in their committment to creating accessible public spaces that honor their environment, community and history."

Van Valkenburgh said in a written statement, as reported in the Hyde Park Herald February 8 "We are committed to creating an OPC that honors the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and at the same time is accessible, inspirational and joyful."

Ernie Wong, founder of Site Design who grew up in Hyde Park and Kenwood and is highly esteemed by neighbors who are not necessarily enthusiastic about prk proposals, said he will seek to "forge the future of this institution as part of Jackson Park, reflecting the history and traditions of the South Side and watching the OPC stand as a beacon for the people of this country."

Heidi Natura, president of Living Habitats, said "We are excite to collaborate with MVVA and site Design Group to create a presidential center that reflects the Obamas' values, especially as it relates to sustainability and the natural environment."


February 21 2017 the Foundation announced the design team for the Center museum, library and center for citizenship and the lead architects (Williams & Tsien) discussed some of their concepts. And the first couple are in wide conversations about what and how of their eight years in the White House will be set forth.

May 31 2017 the Foundation announced selection of Louise Bernard as director of the Museum. Ms. Bernard is a major museum professional, director of exhibition at the New York Public Library and having worked in Washington, D.C. helping design the exhibits in the new National Museum of African American History and before that at Yale and its museum. She is an African American.

Some local journalists were frustrated that both the architects and the Foundation have been tight-lipped (no interviews) about concepts, and when some news was finally revealed, it was in New York at an awards ceremony at Lincoln Center with an interview by New York architecture Paul Rosenberger, who had advised on the architecture team selection.

New York based Ralph Appelbaum Associates will lead, assisted by: Civic Projects LLC, Normal, Amanda Wiliams (Bronzeville artist and educator), Andres Hernandez (Assoc. Prof Art Education. Art Institute of Chicago, Norman Teague (South Side artist and furniture designer).
Nearly half of the exhibit design work will go to female and minority-owned firms.

What did Williams and Tsien say? According to Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times, the first couple believe the building should take on a "strong presence of it own." Indeed, Blair Kamin of the Tribune reported that the President had critiqued first concepts at "too quiet" and "unflashy" (ArchDaily:) "He looked at what we did and he said, 'I said you could be sort of quiet, but I think you're a little too quiet.'" Wiliams told ArchDaily that they are using their Barnes Foundation art museum in Philadelphia as a model- "We..took the idea of the garden and combined it with the building so the building didn't exist by itself."

The Center is to be as much about Michelle as Barack-- who are different people with "separate powerful views. So plurality is critical to solving all architectural problems. It can never be done by a single thing, it has to be using the agency of other elements, in particular the garden." "Architecture-in-the-garden." And perhaps designed so as to be integrated into the Olmsted landscape? Experts wonder- will bit be really welcoming to the neighbors while encouraging tourists to stick around rather than zooming out as is generally true of Science and Industry.

Overall, they want to design from "a set of principles and ideas rather than specific buildings..." in a fluid design process.

Surprising also was revelation in New York Post Page Six among others of thoughts that the Center and its endowment might cost as much as $1.5 billion (partly because the amount of the latter that must be raised privately has been raised).

Details on the architect selection. At the start of May 2016, the Obamas met with leading staff of the Foundation to further vet the 7 finalist architects (with each whom they had met), saying the final selection was just weeks away. Site selection wil require input from the architect as well as specialists studying economics related to the two sites.
Also, a warehouse was leased by National Archives/ General Services Administration at 2500 W. Wolf Road in Hoffman Estates to possible storage, processing, and sorting the Obama Presidential Records. Up to 120 may work at the site. Records can be released before 2022.

Vice President Strautmanis introduced himself at the Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting March 14, 2016. He expects a vigorous input and an impactful result.
At the March 22 5th Ward meeting, he promised that the community will hold significant weight in upcoming dialogue and that the Presidential Center will be a community-driven institution.
“[The Obamas] want it to be a place that inspires civic engagement,” Strautmanis said. “It will tell a story of their presidency, but they also want it to be connected to the community—to be alive.” (Quote from Herald Digest.) And it will not be run by the U of C-- there are many partners besides the U of C.


The Grand History of the site.



When can we expect community input on evolving plans and community meetings?

The Foundation spokespersons say they expects to have a a final design for the Center and grounds by the end of 2017. (Firms for the Center ang grounds design have been selected.) Therefore, the Foundation expects community meetings to start soon. And it is interested in having this dovetail with an overall plan that will serve the park, park users, and the Center and its visitors. (Some want all projects set aside until such a plan is in place, others think this is unrealistic, might kill everything, and is unnecessary in light of sets of major design and planning in process but certainly want to engage before any plans are finalized.
No schedule for or frame for the meetings had been announced by early February 2017.
One of the matters the Foundation seeks comments on in program focused on citizenship- send to https://www.obama.org/your-voice.

The Foundation has said they are exploring closure of drives (Cornell south of 59th and Marquette was mentioned)-- this has elicited strong concerns, although some want to do calming and are intrigued by the idea of a campus going up to the Museum.


The architects are chosen, the archive processing warehouse is being set up*, the site is chosen, and an Inclusion Council selected, s0....

*(Judging from other Libraries, much of the presidential papers will remain in the the processing station or in Washington, especially classified material or that that cannot be accessed for 50 years anyway. This could be enough to affect the size of the structure for the papers on the Center site.)

As of August 2016, according to Tribune article August 14, a Director for the library and museum is expected to be chosen by the end of the year. Top archivist at the National Archives will consult with the President on the selection-- there is already a thorough "job description" based on the latest for the George W. Bush Library. The director will have a major role in selecting the staff that (apart from Foundation staff) ultimately could exceed 50, maybe half of them archivist/librarians. In fact, the team is already being assembled by the National Archives--a museum specialist, a supervisory archivist, an archive technician, and three archivists, and a facility operations specials has been advertised. They will work at first at the in the Hoffman Estates warehouse. Salaries start at c.$123,000. The Bush Library has about 325 volunteers also as docents and in marketing and administration. The new director of the Abraham Lincoln Library in Springfield added that partnerships including with schools and universities will also be pivotal and speculated there could be partnerships with the Lincoln Library.


Some Local positions.

Link to Friends of the Parks/ Hyde Park Herald poll (March 2015).

More information and links.

What was on the Jackson Park Obama Presidential Center site before?
Gary Ossewaarde rev. 9/30/16

Land speculators bought large swaths of the future park in the mid 19th century. It took a long time (1888) to extinguish all the claims after the land was designated for a park and bonds issued after 1869 and the Olmsted-Vaux plan drawn up in 1871. There was little development south of 59th St. for several years after the Chicago Fire. (Olmsted was disappointed at lack of progress when he returned to look at the park for the Fair). Olmsted conceived the west edge of the park (west of a roadway that somewhat approximates what is now Cornell Dr.) as for recreation and gateways, including a perennial garden south of 59th opposite the Midway just outside the site but surely a gateway to it.
Of course, there were several important buildings during the World’s Fair, including Transportation (partly off the southern edge of the site) and Horticulture buildings whose designs morphed from initial concepts. Both were spectacular-- 5-acre Transportation expressing (vs. the "White City" Beaux Arts uniformity of Burnham) Sullivan's new Chicago School Americanist style in brilliant colors, a giant gilded Richardsonian arch, and repeating arch walls all around. Between Transportation and Horticulture was the Choral Hall, where Margaret Lang, - the first woman composer to have a piece played by an American symphony orchestra, conducted "Witichis".
Horticulture was a little under 5 acres with a giant center hall with 180-foot dome and a total of eight greenhouses, including one on each of the sides, each with its own cafe and with a veranda overlooking the gondolas on the lagoon. Horticulture attempted to assemble every kind of plant from around the world that would survive moving, including 16,000 varieties of orchid, a Mexican desert and a Japanese garden. North of Horticulture was a statue of William Penn and the Fair hospital. Next was the Children's Building, which included the new ideas of kindergarten, children's playgrounds, and daycare. North of the site was conceived as a turning basin for a canal through the Midway to Washington Park, never built, then the women's building. Ironically, initial thought was to build the Administration building in the center of the site. Eventually it was sited in the center of the park, where the Golden Lady is now.

After the Fair, the Olmsted firm sited at about 62nd towards 63rd an outdoor double Gymnasium (men's and women's) and track-- about where the present track is. Gravel from Fair paths was used. The track was soon taken over by bicycles. There was also a small playground.

One can find by the future Perennial Garden a plaque for the first cross-country automobile race (Chicago to Evanston and back) run in 1895 from that site.

By 1903 the site, and 4/5 of the park acreage was developed, probably including various ball fields east of Stony Island as today. This writer has not found a date for the comfort station that is now, along with a (poorly placed) playground, south of track.

1936 or a little later, creation of the long-planned perennial garden at 59th and Stony, designed by Betty McAdam, was realized. The large circular sunken garden was placed in an existing recessed circular lawn panel that in Olmsted's 1871 plan and the 1895 Plan was to hold a circular formal water basin. The surround wall and steps down were of stratified limestone and sets of shrubs surrounding the whole gave a sense of enclosure. It has been a point of pride of Park District staff and contractors to keep up this showcase garden.

1966> Cornell Drive was redesigned and widened despite public protests.
Sometime before Victoria Ranney/ Friends of the Parks map of the early 1980s, tennis facilities were placed north of where the present track is and a ballfield at the ne corner of Hayes and Stony Island. However, most of the site became degraded with trucks running over it and football equipment being dragged over it.
The first new track-and-field was built in 2000, including with funds from the NFL. In 2011 the present track and soccer field was built by Take the Field.



2017 1st quarter. (Sun-Times and Tribune) Now that Obama is out of office, the quest for funding is now open.
The co-founder of Twitter, Evan Williams and his wife Sara Morishige gave in the $750K-$1M level.
Michael Sacks, CEO of GCM Grosvenor, investor in the Sun-Times, and chair of World Business Chicago, major player on Chicago, Highland Park and other stages, and his wife Cari increased their contribution to above the $1M level.
John Doerr and wife Ann are also now above the $1M level. He is a member of the Foundation board.
Joe Kiani and wife Sarah, Silicon Valley Masimo Inc, are now at the $500K-750K level,
as are John Rogers and daughter Victoria of Ariel Investments (Rogers is on the Foundation board).
Daniel Levin and wife Fay Hartog-Levin (Habitat Co. adn former ambassador to the Netherlands) are now at the $250,000-500,000K level.
Smaller gifts in the hundreds are now being separated out. These gifts mainly came in online.

A major talk and fundraiser will be held May 25 in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate. Domestically, Obama will talk and receive the 2017 JPF Profile in Courage Award from Caroline Kennedy May 7, followed b y7 a keynote address May 9 in Milan at the Global Food Innovation Summit.

February 11, 2016. President Obama has approved the 5 finalist architectural firms (originally submitted) and added two firms that had not been among the submitted finalists to make up the 7. He will meet with all 7 firms twice, at the start and the end of design, according to advisor architecture critic Paul Goldenberger in an interview by Martin Pederson for Common Edge website, according to a Sun-Times story. Selection of the architect is expected in the first half of 2016, but the site may be later as the architect is expected to have a role in selection. According to Goldenberger, many of the advisors (and firms?) prefer or at least are more interested in the "nitty-gritty" Washington Park site with its "L" stop rather than that in Jackson Park.

December 21, 2015. The Foundation announced 7 finalists for architect, winnowed from about 140, of which about 100 were Chicago area. Three of the firms have or will be designing firms on Chicago's South Side and another in Chicago. Among them was the John Ronan firm from Chicago, known for among others the Poetry Foundation and on the South Side the Gary Comer Youth Center that won an AIA award and where the win by Chicago's bid was announced, and the soon to be build Innovation Center at IIT. That only one was from Chicago and did not include Chicago and Hyde Park favorite Jeanie Gang disappointed some locals, but Blair Kamin of the Tribune said this was hardly like what what happened to Chicago architecture and architects at the 1893 Worlds's Fair. The selectees are modernists (from line-and-angle style to sculptural) and it matters little these days where the firm's office is based, said Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin-- what is the "brain power" they bring to the table and the "out-of-the-box designs" through which Modernism shows it can appeal to "the masses as well as to the cognoscenti" and can be socially aware, inclusive, and contextual.

The architects will be involved in major questions involving which site and how the Center should blend with the site as well as the neighborhoods in which they are set. In the case of the latter, that they be inclusive, not mostly private-function fortresses imposed on public land and in not just engaging via top-down programs. In the case of the former, they are in iconic places that are not just public re-creational green spaces for people that are also supposed to share the city with wildlife and ecosystems but historic Olmsted parks with standards that are under constant public examination from many perspectives. For example, one would hope for a bird-friendly structure, not a glass killing field, and environmentally conscious. Having to show concepts for both sites to the Obama's as well as to the Foundation should help clarify site selection and use-- it all begins with relationship with the clients and with the site. So when and which landscape and Olmsted architects be brought in?

Four of the are based in New York, two in Europe- if one of the latter 2 are chosen, it will be the first time a presidential library is built by a non-American. Notable also is that two of the finalists have designed firms on the nearby U of C campus and one a couple miles away. Overall, the selections indicate a preference for a variety of modernist, innovative design and for very top architects. (The Obama's had input in the selection and approved the list of finalists.) The seven are to submit full proposals (responses to RFP) during the first quarter 1016 and present them to the First Couple, a process Kamin called significant and necessary-- indeed, to meet more than once. Kamin also pointed to the significance of the requirement to provide concepts for both sites, indicating the two selections (architect and site) will be done together.In the Foundation statement as quoted by the Hyde Park Herald evening digest,

"Although the RFP process is not a design competition, the RFP will require defined, visual responses from each candidate to present creative ideas in response to the foundation’s project goals,” according to a written statement from the Obama Foundation. “As the Foundation has not yet selected the specific site for the development of the OPC, the architectural firms will be asked to prepare responses for both the Jackson Park and Washington Park sites.

"The Foundation received submissions from an impressive list of architects with a range of styles, expertise, and experience,” Nesbitt said. “These finalists offer a variety of backgrounds and styles, and any one of them would be an excellent choice. We are excited to see this process moving forward because the Obama Presidential Center will be so much more than a library – this facility will seek to inspire citizens across the globe to better their communities, their countries, and their world.”

The selected firms are:
Adjaye Associates
of London, England (Tanzanian born) (inter National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, MCA Denver, expansion of Studio Museum of Harlem. Wall Street Journal Innovator Award. Sat with President at 2012 state dinner w. Br. PM. Has a significant, large one-man show through January 3 in the Art Institute of Chicago.),
Diller Scofidio + Renfro of New York (inter alia the High Line New York, Broad Museum LA, and the soon to built Rubenstein Forum at University of Chicago. Principals were first architects to win MacArthur Genius awards),
Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa, Paris & New York (Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, California Academy of Sciences SF, and Whitney Museum's new building (praised by Michelle Obama). Dined w. Obama at Rome dinner. Pritzker Prize winner),
John Ronan Architects of Chicago (see above),
SHoP Architects, New York (Barclays Center, Brooklyn; the Botswana Innovation Hub, Gaborone; and academic buildings at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Currently, SHoP is designing Uber’s new headquarters in San Francisco),
Snøhetta, New York, NY (National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, New York; the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt; and the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art),
Snøhetta, founded in Norway, now New York. (September 11 memorial Museum Pavilion, where Obama spoke; unusual Cultual Center in Norway ;other significant)
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, New York, NY (Barnes Foundation Art Museum, Philadelphia; the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago; and the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California. In 2013, the firm received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.)

So, who is vetting the architects and advising the Obamas and who is giving?
According to news reports and releases, there is a Design Advisory Team, some of (Eychaner especially) whom helped winnow the 140 from whom the 7 finalists were selected. It was not said how decisive the team will be, but they will not "vote" for an architect. the team has visited both the Jackson Park and Washington Park sites and met with all seven finalist teams (as will the first couple). Apparently there are now plans to let the public see and possibly weigh in on the designs the teams come up with.

According to foundation spokespersons and statements, quoted by Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times, background criteria and expectation includes: "The foundation worked closely with a group of talented and experiencee advisors trusted by the president and first lady and evaluated over 140 Responses to the RFQ released in August. Based upon highly selective criteria identified by experts in design and architecture, the foundation and its advisers presented their recommendations to the president and first lady. All of the selected firms have a position of eminence within the architecture profession and have achieved some degree of public recognition. "
Bid documents stress that the structure reflect, for example, "a spirit of optimism and hope" and in the emotions it evokes resonates with both the communities and visitors "reflection, exploration, learning and conversation."

The Design Advisory team (about 10) includes
Don Gummer (sculptor in steel, stone, bronze and marble who is also married to actress Meryl Streep, whom the president greatly admires),
Ed Schlossberg (who heads design firm ESI, was appointed by Obama to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and is also married to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy),
Fred Eychaner (Chicago radio station owner and board chair of Newsweb and Democratic and Obama Foundation ($500,000 to 1 M) donor who had his Chicago home designed by Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Ando and whose Alphawood Foundation among its many other good works pledged $10M to restoration of FL Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park);
Bob Clark (CEO of Clayco Chicago building firm, appointed by Obama to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House);
Theaster Gates (artist and sculptor, U of C visual arts prof. and administrator and Rebuild Foundation that has transformed and repurposed many structures for arts and public life purposes);
Christine Forester (architect whose firm declares it is "at the intersection of business, marketing and design," a very early donor to Obama and appointed to the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities);
Margaret Russell (editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest and a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts);
Michael Smith (interior designer who redecorated the White House for the residence for the Obamas and appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House);
Kathryn Chenault (attorney and wife of Kenneth Chenault, chair and CEO of American Express. Mr. Chenault is on the Council on Jobs and competitiveness and Smithsonian Institutions's Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History and Culture);
Oprah Winfrey (possibly less formally? Donated to and is heavily involved in the National Museum of African American History and Culture).


Who is funding and in charge; financial reports. Summary list as of end of 2017

From the 2107 Annual Report issued August 2018

Comparison of donations 2014-17.
2017________________$232,592,542 (first year after the president was out of office and began active fundraising. Before leaving office he imposed a $1M cap on each donation.

Total to date_____________ $253,119,124
In 2017, $220.7 M rounded or 94.9% of donations were from individuals and $11.8 M from corporate adn foundation sources. Most gifts were not earmarked or restricted. Also, many givers were repeat donors.
In April 2018 the website listed 47 gifts of at least $1M. In July that had grown to 56 including Oprah Winfrey.

By the end of 2017, and especially in the last quarter, the numbers of donors large and small, family/personal, institutional, and corporate, had grown enormously, including over 30 who gave over a million in the last quarter. (Including past donations over a million, the number in that category is 46. At least 56 new gifts were in the 10,000+ range. Among recent notable large donors are Hollywood's Shona Rhimes and Philip Rosenthal. Also the foundations of Lucas Foundation, Exelon, Goldman Sachs, Bill and Melinda Gates, Microsoft, Ford Foundation, Steans Family Foundation, and Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation. Those giving again in various categories, who had already given at least a million include Hutchins Family Foundation, Mel Heifetz, and Kenneth C. Griffin.

An article in the December 25 2016 Tribune focused on how steep a climb it may be to raise the hundreds of millions for the Library. The cost of each successive library (construction plus endowment) goes up steeply while contribution from government via archives budget may not. The first year after the President leaves office is likely to be crucial. the Foundation will largely be drawing from the donors to his campaigns (which is a deep pool, and many of these will want to preserve his legacy and reach youth after the big election loss). And now there will be some competition with the effort to raise funds for a golf remake in Jackson and South Shore Cultural center parks. In addition, the rules have changed--the endowment raised must equal at least 60 percent of the construction cost (vs. 20). There has also been some confusion regarding the pledge to not draw a link between access to the president and giving and controversies over the Clinton and Trump foundations.

The way contributions are recorded in large brackets has made it hard to sort out the players. This may become more clear after IRS documents are filed. Some details are below. the major givers through 2016 seem to be the Lucases, Fred Eychaner (media), Joyce Foundation, Michel Sacks (hedge fund, a close ally of Mayor Emanuel). $7.3 million had been raised through 2015. The President and the new CEO of the Foundation, David Simas speak at McCormick Place December 26, 2016. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, the Foundation slowed to a crawl its fundraising until the President was out of office. It was also slapped by Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times for its lack of transparency and promptness in reporting donations (using the quarterly foundation and only in big brackets rather than amounts, and unclear identities, vs. the Obama campaign-derived legacy foundation, Organizing for Action-- The Obama Foundation last, more detailed 990 for 2014 was filed in May 2015). Raised in 2014 was $5.4M and 2015 $2.4. Two new donors were in half to one million range, Scott Miller with Tim Gill (Quark and Gill Foundations) and Ian Simmons (ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund, married to Liesel Pritzker). The Joyce Foundation paid more of its 2014 $1 M pledge. Other new donors gave between $200 and $100,000--Nicholas Alexos, Alison and John Shulman, Sheila Anderson, and the Lawrence Z. and Jacqueline A. Stern Foundation. Past donors according to IRS filings have been mainly Chicago and New York investors who gave heavily to the Obama campaigns. Another 2014 pair of donors were Tom and Sonya Campion (Zumiez Clothing) of Seattle, $500,000.

Major donors reported for first quarter of 2016- the Lucas family (Star Wars) between $500 K and $1 M. John W. Rogers and Victoria Rogers- $250 K to $1 M. Robert C. Clark (Clayco) $100K-250K. Steve and Lisa Gerber in the $200 to $100K category. Additional: Scott Miller and Tim gill with Gill Foundation $500K-1M and Sheila Anderson $200-$100K.

April 22 2016- According to the Sun-Times, three more major donors were added to the board of the Foundation, growing it from 7 to 10. (The foundation had dinner with the Obamas April 1.) Two of these, Michael Sacks and John Rogers, Jr. are tasked with figuring how the library is to fit into the "civic fabric" of Chicago. For example, Michelle Obama is thinking of ways to keep initiatives such as "Let's Move" alive, including through the Library ("the new platform" as Michelle said at a meeting with kids. As of late April, the Obamas have met with all 7 architects. The new board members: John Rogers, Jr. (Ariel Investments; Rogers and daughter Victoria have given between $50,00 and $500,000.) Michael Sacks (GCM Grosvenor, vice chair of World Business Chicago, vice chair of th Mayor's Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs. Sacks and wife Cari have given between $500,000 and $1M.) Robert Wolf (founder and CEO fo 32 Advisors in New York and chair of Measure-Drone; he and his wife have given between $100,000 and $250,000.)

2015 donors were included in the May 2016 2015 tax filing. According to the Chicago Sun=Times (inclu9ding Lynn Sweet) and Tribune. Tax filings have more info than the nonprofit donations filings, in which donors are put into very large dollar buckets. In short, 6 major donors, individual and foundations, were recorded (Some donated in 2014 year also.)
Gill Foundation, of Colorado (Scott Miller and Tim Gill founder of Quark. Supporter of LBGT and HIV causes)- $347,000 (in addition to $432,876 in 2014)
Sacks Family Foundation of Highland Park (Michael Sacks CEO of GCM Grosvenor Capital Management, investor in company owning Chicago Sun-times, ally of Mayor Emanuel and a new member of the Foundation's board)- 333,384 (2014 $666,666)
Lise Strickler and Mark Gallogly with Marilyn and Jim Simons of New York (Gallogly- Centerbridge Partners investing, former member of Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Simons net worth $15+ B, hedge fund Renaissance Technologies)- $330,000 (2014 Strickler and Gallogly gave $340,000). Possible duplicative listing in the Tribune, or Sun-Times listing may combine two sets of donors who gave the same amount: The Simons, founders of Renaissance Technologies gave $330,000 in 2015 and $340,000 in 2014.
David and Beth Shaw of New York (David Shaw net worth $5 B, quantitative trader who founded d.E. Shaw & Co. - $250,000, also $250,00 in 2014.
ImpactAssets of Maryland (promotes investments with social, environmental and financial impact)- $250,000 (in addition to lead Ian Simmons gift of $500,000 in 2014-- Simmons' wife is Liesel Pritzker Simmons).

Total public income 2014- $5.434,877, 2015 $1.916,247 including small donations not itemized in tax returns.
2015 expenses $2.820,908 cf 2014 $1,952,254. Funds on hand $2.62 M.
Compensation: (no highly paid employees in 2014.) 2015: Robbin Cohen (ex dir) $244,838; Justin Rosenthal (strategy and operations) $131,596; Jamison Citron (external affairs) $137,500; Jonabel Russett (accounting and admin) $121,329. The board is not paid.
Main expense activity in 2015 was architectural competition, followed by researching the mission, role and programs of the Foundation and Center as well as what the first family might do after the President leaves office.

Fees. Accounting. Lynn Taliento of McKinsey firm's social sector practice. This firm is helping the Obamas shape develop long-term post White House strategy.
Legal- Law firm of Katten, Muchin, Rosenman $296,759
Marketing- Blue State Digital, New York- digital marketing; SKD Knickerbocker, D.C.- communications and marketing
Real Estate consulting- Peter Edward Arendt, Fort Worth- $150,000.

New first quarter 2016 donors were reported by the Foundation, according to Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times.
The Lucas Family Foundation (which includes Melody Hobson)- $500,000 to $1M category.
John W. Rogers and Victoria Rogers - $250,00-500,000.
Robert G. Clark (Clayco, member of the team advising on selection of architect) $100,000-250,000.
Steve and Lisa Gerber of Indiana between $2009 and $100,000.
Past donors giving additional amounts in the quarter: Scott Miller/Tim Gill/Gill Foundation $500,001-1M
and Shiela Anderson of Ocala FL $200-100,000, called a "Grass roots donor".

Additional donors announced in October 2016. A total of 11 gifts, several were repeat givers. New:
Reid Hoffman and Michelle Yee (Linked In, other Silicon Valley ventures)- over $500K
Daniel Levin (developer, Winnetka, founder of The Habitat Company, and wife Fay Hartog-Levin who was Ambassador to the Netherlands- up to $100,000
Andrew Hauptman- Foundation (Chicago Fire, Andell Inc., founder of The Habitat Company, foundation manager, of Beverly Hills CA, connected to Bronfmans of Seagram's) over$$250K
The John and Marcia Goldman Foundation (San Francisco) up to $250.000
Robin and Possum Fund up to $100,000

4th Quarter 2016 donors
The overall total of gifts is not given. 24 contributors are new or giving again--3 are in the $500,000- $1M category: Stephen Cloobeck (travel ind., longtime Dem. donor), Mel Heifetz (real estate, Obama supporter), family foundation of Glenn Hutchins (Silver Lake Partners).
$250,000-$500,000- 2 new: family foundation of George Logothetis (Greek shipping magnate), Alison and Mark Pincus (tech. entrepreneur/Zynga).
$101,000-$250,000- 2 new- Jill and Davie(?) Glazer (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Marjorie and Louis B. Susman (former ambassador to Britain).
$200- $100,000- 17 new including Foundation board members Martin Nesbitt with wife Dr. Anita Blanchard, family foundation of J. Kevin Poorman

November 23 2015, Foundation Chair Marty Nesbitt and Executive Director Robbin Cohen announced appointment effective in January of Michael A. Strautmanis, long-time friend of frequent aide to the Obamas and in the White House including heading the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chief of staff to Valerie Jarrett, as head of Community Outreach (Vice President of Civic Engagement) and public face for the Foundation. To date the foundation's engagement, other than solicitation of comments and ideas, has been largely at second-hand. Strautmanis is a native Chicagoan who is a lawyer and has much experience in public relations and community engagement. For the past two years he has been vp of corporate citizenship for Walt Disney Co. Also announced, the headquarters of the Foundation until the Center is completed will be in the Harper Court tower at 53rd and Lake Park (University of Chicago is providing the space free of charge) starting in January, moving into ground space probably a little later as the space is built out.
This raised the question of a community benefits agreement (starting with local jobs but including real economic development and tangible institutions and programs, something that Nesbitt has said is unnecessary as the whole Center is a community benefit.
Cohen said, as quoted in the Sun-Times, "We are delighted to have Michael join the foundation, and we look forward to his leadership on how to best engage the dynamic South Side and greater Chicagoland community throughout the construction of the Obama Presidential Center and beyond." As quoted in the Chicago Tribune, Strautmanis said, "Civic engagement has been at the center of President Obama's career in public service, from his start as a community organizer on the South Side all the way to the White House. I am honored to bring his unique and effective approach to civic and social change to the foundation's work with the vibrant community on the South Side, along with other communities across the city and beyond." Strautmanis' written statement included, "My main focus will be building meaningful pathways for citizens to engage with the foundation, strengthening connections with the vibrant communities we’re a part of on the South Side, in greater Chicago, and around the country...”

November 10 2015 Foundation Chair Martin Nesbit, in his first public address since the South Side was selected, warned the City Club of Chicago- before we open the Library, Chicago has to come together and get its house in order-- especially the South Side violence. With the emphasis that these problems are precisely what the President had in mind resolving when he chose the South Side. (The President has said repeatedly that he will be working on several interrelated issues once he leaves office including violence, race, and criminal justice and he has frequently cited the violence in his home city). Nesbitt specifically called attention to the concurrent funeral for 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee and said that we can't expect to invite the world and make the Library a first-class attraction and bring in jobs with these problems in place (a warning echoed separately by scholars and leaders evaluating Chicago's prospects as a global and global-issues think tank and foundation center). The fiscal situation for Chicago and Illinois, while not mentioned must have been the 500-pound gorilla in the room. Nesbitt has recused himself from Chicago Politics since becoming chair of the Foundation, so his words now on the city situation count.

Apparently not counting on the extensive, but criticized by many as biased and incomplete, the community engagement conducted by the University of Chicago and others of the "Bring It Home" campaign, Nesbitt emphasized that the Foundation will soon start its own process of seeking out the input and priorities of South Side residents, businesses, et al and urged them-- and the city and state to engage and "work with us as much as they can. We need local businesses to take a risk on the potential of the South Side. Most importantly we need local residents to embrace this opportunity to create a better future for our children". He said that a coordinator of civic engagement and idea-exchange will be hired by early in the next year. He stressed that the center must work with the community-- "Yes We Can," not "Yes I Can". "In the coming months, we will be talking to and collaborating with people who live here, so their perspectives and ideas are fully considered during the process," as quoted in the Sun-Times. He said, as quoted in the Tribune, "I encourage local businesses "to take a risk on the potential of the South Side" in an enterprise both local and worldwide since the the President consciously chose to place the library on the South Side, in a public park in the middle of a low-income African-American community that would benefit most from the jobs, money, and foot traffic the center will bring, and also become a destination providing experiences that can't be had anywhere else in the world. As quoted in the November 11 Tribune, Nesbitt said, "Chicago has a long and proud history of civic engagement, of harnessing the ingenuity and compassion of our citizens to solve problems in ways that no one every has before. In order to realize our vision, we have to start preparing now." He also emphasized, citing park designer F L Olmsted's principle of "the genius of a place," "We are going to be extremely mindful of our relationship with the Olmsted parks and our impact on the surrounding environment."

More specifically, Nesbitt, as quoted in the November 11 Tribune, told the City Club, "Right now, there is a funeral taking place for a 9-year-old boy who was gunned down. We can't forget that. The world is already watching. We can't invite the world to the South Side without demonstrating that we can fix our own problems. I came to ask everyone to roll up their sleeves and get involved. We are about to invite the world into our living room, so we need to get our house in order." "We are trying to build a platform that helps facilitate change across a broad array of issues. So when we think about the the most important quality for this institution to have, it is the capacity to change, the capacity to adapt to circumstances and fulfill needs where they are. As part of that, I hope we have created a mechanism that allows us to step in and have an impact on something like the issue of violence." "I encourage all of us to come together in the spirit of community to seize this opportunity to be a source of hope and inspiration (for our children)."

The Foundation will release a list of fewer than 10 architects by the end of the year who will be asked to submit proposals. Revising the timeline, siting having to vet 140 architects and with the architect now having a major impact on the site selection (and maybe vice versa), the architect and site selection are now said to be in the first half of the new year, not early in 2015.

2016 summary. 13,175,732 M (almost double the 2 first years combined- 5,543,877 2014 and 1,916,247, according tote IRS filing May 15 20167.
$1M from former ambassador to the Netherlands Fay Hartog-Levin and her husband, developer Daniel Levin, founder of The Habitat Company. Hartog-Levin connections include Valerie Jarrett, Chicago Council of Global Affairs, U of C Law school faculty.
$1M from former ambassador to Great Britain Louis Susman and wife Marjorie (who gave $1M the previous year).
$1M from Mel Heifetz (trust), Philadelphia real estate investor and Obama donor.
$1M from Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn and wife Michelle Yee trough Fidelity Charitable Foundation.
$1M from Andrew Hauptman family foundation (incl. wife Ellen Bronfman Hauptman) owner of Chicago Fire. and chairman of Andell Inc.
$1M from Mark Gallogly of Centerbridge Partners and wife Lise Stickler through New Your Community Trust.
$1M from Hutchins Family Foundation- Glenn Hutchins is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners and co-owner of the Boston Celtics.
$1M from George Lucas Foundation.
$1,013,232 from John and Ann Doerr (who gave $1M the previous year).

Expenses. $4.8M. Pay for executive dir. Robbin Cohen 2016 + bonus for 2015 work $490,627.
Media-digital-marketing $532,848 to Blue State Digital.
Fundraising- Grenzebach Glier and Associates $372,937.
Chief Development Officer Jordan Kaplan (Lakefront Strategies) $96,000, plus to Sky Advisory Group.
Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien $305,244.
Office artwork from Project Onward (disabilities)- $18,601.
Legal- Katten Muchin Rosenman $838,568.

Here is a list of funders for 2017, published by the Foundation. See http://www.obama.org/contributors/

* New donors who have made cash contributions during the reporting period and all donors who have formalized written commitments with the Obama Foundation between January 22, 2017-December 31, 2017. Subsequent contributor reports will only highlight new cash contributions and those written commitments formalized during the corresponding reporting period.

Aphorism Foundation *
Lynne and Marc R. Benioff *
Blum-Kovler Foundation/Peter and Judy Kovler *
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation *
Sonya and Tom Campion
Stephen Cloobeck
The Crown Family *
Ann & John Doerr
Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund *
Exelon Corporation *
Fred Eychaner
The Ford Foundation *
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation *
The Goldberg Family Foundation *
Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund *
Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Gift Fund *
Jeannie & Jonathan Lavine
Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin & Daniel Levin *
The Hauptman Family Foundation
Mel Heifetz *
Reid Hoffman *
Hutchins Family Foundation *
The Joyce Foundation
George Lucas Family Foundation *
Joe and Rika Mansueto *
Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare *
Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams Family Foundation *
Microsoft Corporation *
New York Community Trust *
Scott Miller & Tim Gill
Todd Y. Park
Linda and Richard Price Family Fund *
Pritzker Traubert Foundation *
Rhimes Family Foundation *
Victoria & John Rogers *
Rosenthal Family Foundation *
Amy & Kirk Rudy *
Cari & Michael J. Sacks
Beth & David Shaw
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Ian Simmons through ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund
Marilyn and Jim Simons
Evan Williams & Sara Morishige
Robert and Carol Wolf Family Foundation *
Leo Smith & Heather Steans *
Mary and Jeffrey Zients *

$750,001 to $999,999
$500,001 to $750,000

Wayne Jordan and Quinn Delaney *
Prudential Foundation

$250,001 to $500,000

Robert G. Clark *
Tim Collins
Jewish Communal Fund
Jill & Avram Glazer *
The John & Marcia Goldman Foundation
Nicholas Logothetis
Alison and Mark Pincus
Mrs. Marjorie Susman & Ambassador Louis B. Susman *
The Brin Wojcicki Foundation *
$100,001 to $250,000

The Goolsbee Family *
The Tony James Charitable Foundation
The Kresge Foundation
$10,000 to $100,000

Marcie and Nick Alexos
The Apatow-Mann Family Foundation, Inc. *
Priya V. Balakrishnan *
Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin Nesbitt
John Boiler
Andrew & Ellen Bradley *
Douglas & Teresa Brown
Jedd Canty
Susan Sher & Neil Cohen Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation *
Jesse Crowe
Judith Estrin
Franklin and Marshall College *
Eiichi Fukushima
Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag
Seth Rosen *
Hamlin Kurihara Fund
Estate of Nancy Hom
Jack & Jill of America Foundation, Inc.
The MJK Family Foundation
Jane A. Lehman and Alan G. Lehman Foundation *
Revada Foundation *
Chuck Lorre Family Foundation *
Joseph Macari
Jane and Richard Mescon
Diane Meyer Simon *
Minow Family Foundation *
Penny Norman Trust
Gilbert Omenn and Martha Darling
Peter Orzsag
Carol and David Pensky *
Jeanne and John Kevin Poorman through JKP Family Foundation *
Robert Rivkin and Cindy Moelis
The Lostand Foundation *
Georgina T. Russo
Margaret Schink
Segal Family Foundation *
The Fine and Greenwald Foundation *
Lawrence Z. & Jaqueline A. Stern Foundation
Anne and Bruce Strohm Family Charitable Fund *
Andrew Tobias *
Craig Troyer
Aaron and Ana Zamost *

$200-$9,999 about 100- find link in obama.org/contributors/

August 26, 2015


The Obama Presidential Foundation on August 26 issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to an undisclosed number of architectural firms who may be interested in designing the Obama Presidential Center (aka Library). Jackson Park between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive, 60th and 63rd is one of the two finalist sites for the Center, on the South Side of Chicago—the first Library to be built in a predominantly African American and low income urban section. It would also be the first in a truly historic park—given overview in the RFQ without comment on issues raised for or against that siting. Site selection is not expected until about the time the firm has been selected in early 2016. The firm may or may not have much input about which site. Meanwhile economists et aI are studying how to (and which site can best) create a revitalizing public/private economic engine. In an unusual, perhaps unprecedented procedure, the firms solicited (and others who wish), are invited to document their credentials, financials, samples of their work and vision, but not a design, by September 16. At least 90 percent solicited are U.S. firms, heavily weighted in favor of Chicago. The Foundation hopes to get a wide range of options and styles. Firms will then be winnowed by the first couple late in the year, into a few finalists that will be asked via RFP to submit Proposals--actually “creative ideas” according to news reports—there will not be a full-fledged design competition. Pulitzer Prize-winning N.Y. architecture critic Paul Goldberger is advising. The president and first lady will make the final selection, but how involved they will be can’t be easily predicted. The Foundation’s website specifies that the Center to include—A LOT!--community gardens, “quiet spots for reflection,” convening spaces for “activists, thinkers and leaders,” innovation labs, a “healthy dining” facility, indoor and outdoor sport and performance space. The core will have the archives, “interactive and immersive” museum with live and recorded video production, foundation offices, and a Presidential Suite—all having to be run by a multi-party collaboration. The object is to be “inspiring and empowering people to take action on the big challenges of our time.” (The city’s new mantra for destination facilities is “open, accessible, and green.”) Construction cannot begin until after President Obama leaves office and is projected to be completed 2020 or 2021 at a cost of over $500 million, almost all yet to be raised.
See more at barackobamafoundation.org.
The Foundation reported Sept. 17 that 140 firms responded to the RFQ, and therefore the award of commission will be delayed, and likely also site selection, beyond early 2016. According to media, it is still unclear whether the architect selected will play a role in site selection, which would push the latter back even further. 99 firms from U.S. applied, "many" from Chicago, firms in total are from 60 cities in 25 countries. The foundation did not identify the number of firms contacted for RFQ (said to be over 3 dozen) or which firms were contacted/requested to submit RFQ's to avoid pressure on those asked, it said, and perhaps to avoid embarrassing those who were not asked but volunteered. Clearly there were a lot interested firms that were not originally asked. But and RFQ is relatively easy compared to a Proposal, and is free advertising! so one would expect some to be simply fishing. So among the heavies who acknowledges they were asked? The Chicago Sun-Times says Chicago firms Perkins + Will; Jeannie (Studio) Gang (which declines to say so); and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; New-York's Ennead Architects LLP (Clinton Library) and the MacArthur-winning Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Lincoln Center redesign an the High Line. Also London-based Adjaye Associates (thought by some to be the front-runner, National Museum of African American History and Culture). The Chicago Tribune said it identified 11 selected architects including Chicago-based Helmut John, New York's Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Italian Renzo Piano. Adjaye (whose large exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago has just opened ) and Gang are among those that declined to say whether they were contacted by the Foundation.
The list will be reduced to 9 or 10 (depending on the source) or fewer who will be asked to respond to a as-yet-unreleased (or unprepared?) RFP and at least some present to the Obamas. The Foundation plans to release the list of finalists.

September 10, 2015 the University of Chicago appears to have gone a long ways towards dispelling opposition to its involvement by collaborating with Mount Sinai Hospital in proposing a jointly financed and run Class I adult trauma center for 68th and California, serving most of an area in deep need, and in opening to a new, larger emergency room at U of C. Persons speculated that if the Library were sited on the South Side, somehow a new trauma center would be created nearby, if only for security concerns related to Obama visits. That a trauma center is now announced for so far west of U of C could be either a hint that Washington Park is the choice, or could factor in that choice. Among remaining hostility-generating relationship issues is equitable and transparent UC policing.

Media reported starting April 30 that a decision has been made by the President and First Lady to site the Obama Presidential Center (Library, Museum and Institute) in Chicago under the University of Chicago bid. The Foundation with the Mayor made the formal announcement and released video from the First Couple May 12 at Gary Comer Youth Center. Site selection between Jackson and Washington park was said to be 6-9 months away, after selection of and evaluation by an architect. Also, it is expected that there will be a presence at Columbia University in Harlem in New York City and some satelite in Hawaii.
Lynn Sweet in the Sun-Times said favorable factors for the Chicago-UC choice include UC partnership with and plans to advance local elementary and high schools and universities, support from communities, strategy to optimize tourism and for economic development of "this historic place." Likely also: the strong connections of the first family and their friends to the South Side of Chicago and the University and that government bodies bent over backwards to secure the land and create legal presumption that the library can be built in historic parks. The site-selection process was led by Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives in Hawaii.
Pundits are now putting out the pros and cons and drawbacks of the two sites.

Watch for:

Selection of an architect (see above)- there is already a favorite, South African David Ayoale, and touting of other architects, particularly African American. The architect will likely be involved in evaluating the two sites, as well as others who will do through soil, water and environmental and traffic evaluation.
An article in the August 18 2015 Chicago Tribune said that the Foundation's international rfp search for an architect will start "soon." Meanwhile, the Foundation is conducting its own research and the opinions of economists and related experts as to which of the two sites is more likely to spur economic development and neighborhood revitalization impacts. Earlier reports had said there must be environmental impact studies of the site.

A lawsuit? at least [then] not--Friends of the Parks issued a statement May 12 that, according to the Tribune, "urging the foundation to take all necessary steps to minimize the impact on the parkland and ensure that any construction fits with the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Washington Park and Jackson Park."

Who will run the show? Probably the Foundation will take the lead at least until the President leaves office; the Foundation will have to sign a formal contract and lease with the city. The Foundation is to work with the city and UC to set up structure for going forward including what infrastructure and transportation enhancements will be needed (very expensive with the city in financial difficulty). Also parsing National Archives rules and requirements that are quite meticulous.
Regarding UC, there is no mention of an "academic institute" or co-degree program, and both Marty Nesbit and President Zimmer made it clear the two institutions would be "good neighbors," this being a uniquely urban presidential center. The University is expected to be strongly involved in community engagement (including what is wanted for the community) and in bringing programs and resources together for revitalization. There could be some sharing of facilities abut other institutions will also be collaborating-- and it seems that the Foundation and the University agree with media urging that there needs to be a firewall and not one bending the other. (Media is also calling for the institute and library to be honest and not propagandistic or partisan in programming.)

Fundraising (UC says it will not be involved in this)-- up to 500M, including a large and sustainable endowment. In any case there are restrictions on this until the President is out of office.

What about community benefits? A geographically broadbased coalition has already drawn up draft for Benefits Agreement especially for Washington Park selection. Some groups in Woodlawn insist on the same should the choice be Jackson, but others including Rev. Brazier do not-- but put forth a set of objectives. UC Vice President Derek Douglas said he prefers an area Master Plan. Foundation head Marty Nesbitt told the Tribune (June 3 2015) the site was chosen in large part because there the center could drive economic growth within the surrounding community. "The Obama Foundation will independently raise all of the funds needed to construct the Obama Presidential Center, and we intend to work collaboratively with the city and community to ensure that every aspect of the future project maximizes benefits to teh South Side and to all Chicagoans." Documents outlined partnerships with CPS, CTA, Metra, IDODT, and other agencies. The only UC incentive is the 6 acres- no financial assistance or aid in fundraising.

And what is the city thinking of as enhancement for reachability, attractiveness and safety (and judging from other libraries, it will fall on the city)?
According to a Tribune article June 3 2015: If it's Washington Park it could be widening and redesigning sidewalks to the Green Line and complete-streets revamping of Garfield Blvd. Whether or not it's Jackson, these could go all the way east to the Outer Drive (planning process is underway). These could include crosswalk islands and bump outs, new and enhanced protected bike lanes, performance and art spaces, streetscape and furniture, and traffic timing. Green Line and bus and Metra operations and scheduling enhancements are proposed. Suggested is to revive the former UC/174 route as a circulator between the rail lines, the Museum Campus South sites and the library basically using Garfield-Morgan-55th as an axis. Other improvements specific to a Jackson Park site include fixing and reorganizing the Stony Island sidewalks, trails in and through Jackson Park and the Midway including lighting, and Metra viaducts at the Midway and 63rd. High on the list is improvement pedestrian crossings on the various streets including crossing the busy roadways. Metra service upgrades (remember the "Gold Line?") could be included. And simply ways to get people to come to the South Side.


April 22, Sen. Raoul introduced a leadership fast-tracked amendatory-statute bill providing interpretation of common law public trust doctrine to the effect that the city has the right to lease land and allow construction of a presidential library or museum on public parkland even if "located on formerly submerged land" as long as the public can access the grounds "in a manner consistent with its access to other public parks." The bill promptly passed committee without dissent and then the Senate 39-13. Thursday it passed the House 94-16 and went to the Governor, who later signed it with enthusiasm. This is an 'extra chance' devised by the Mayor, Foundation, and (Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times said) a group of powerful allies and friends of the President and Mayor ready to arm-twist, since the selection of the UC bid is all but done save for the state uncertainty. The President and Foundation indicated their pleasure with the state action and personally thanked the legislative leaders and the Mayor's team. . Whether or not coincidentally, President Cassandra Francis of Friends of the Parks resigned the day before-- although FOTP emphatically said their suits and threats to sue continue. And the legislation could conceivably be voided on federal law or constitutional supersession. The mayor took the broadest view of the state bill by saying it protected all museum uses including the present museums in the parks. But it is significant that the bill upholds public access to museums and their grounds on the same basis as for parks in general and specifically requiring 52 free days a year for these two new museums.

An excellent  background article on presidential library history, context for the Obama      library, and analyses on benefits is in the November 2014 issue of
Planning, article by Ruth Knack (past editor of the publication and immediate past president of Hyde Park Historical Society.) https://www.planning.org/planning/2014/nov/presidentialattics.htm (Ms. Knack tells this editor she thinks non subscribers may be able to read
but not download-- she is glad to furnish a link for that- contact garyossewaarde@yahoo.com.) An excellent summary and analysis from the opposition side is provided by Charles Birnbaum of the national Cultural Heritage Foundation is in Huffington
Post Jan 12? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-a-birnbaum/will-part-of-chicagos-his_b_6455036.html.
HL is one of several national groups taking notice of the controversy.
Marc Monaghan writes an occasional photo blog that focuses on Chicago's South Side. Latest posts are images of the sections of Jackson and Washington Parks that are being considered for the Obama Library. Here is the link to the blog:


Several of the images posted were published in the April 22, 2015 issue of the HP Herald.

Find information below the January 12 2015 JPAC meeting extended discussion and Q and A held with the UC presenters Derek Douglas and Sonya Malunda as well as the Jan 13 and 14 public hearings.

c. January 16 2015. Here is the University's perspective on the hearings and support. http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/01/15/public-hearings-reflect-deep-support-obama-presidential-library-south-side?utm_source=%2A+UChicago+News+-+All+Subscribers&utm_campaign=4041787bc9-2014-01-15-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4d15d79ba2-4041787bc9-154060717.
The University's bid website is oplsouthside.org. This site has blogs etc. on the various meetings. and support
A very negative view of the University and the proposal to use park land can be found in the Reader online by Ben Joravsky. Similar with a different slant by Phil Rosenthal in the business section of the January 21 Tribune).
A Chicago Maroon editorial January 16 called for using the UC acres northwest of 55th and King for the Library rather than parkland.
The Herald online already has two articles posted online in the January 21 issue, by Lindsey Welbers on the hearings (in addition to one on the JPAC meeting and Jan. 14 issue on background) and by Jeff Bishku-Aykul on a meeting on broader Jackson Park planning and possible projects.

Recent developments. As predicted here, the Foundation and the Obamas have postponed their selection (or announcement ) of a winning bid until after the April 7 election. March 9 the Chicago Plan Commission unanimously approved the land transfer ordinance. March 11 a joint committee of City Council unanimously approved the transfer and March 18 the full City Council unanimously approved, 47-0 after Ald. Fioretti changed his vote after making a point for local hiring and make sure the facility is affordable for Chicago students. About an hour was devoted to statements, including some that preferred the West Side but would support any in Chicago. mayor Emanuel urged Friends of the Parks to become part of the "Chicago Team" rather than sue and that the city would work with them regarding parks and parkland issues.

Meanwhile, Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times elucidated emails obtained under FOIA and going back to April 2014 among the Foundation, the University and others regarding siting and parkland. They reveal several meetings between the parties, some rather urgent. They seem to show that the Foundation (or Obama's) were at least aware, if not initiators, of the use of parkland, and apparently did not raise any concern about such use except wanting to secure good title to the land. The emails including between the Park District Board President Bryan Traubert (in Washington at the time) and U of C officers about use of park land started at least as early as April, 2014.(In November Mr. Traubert recused himself from PD deliberations and negotiations about the Library.) (Exactly when the UC proposal definitely became for parkland (plus 6 acres of UC land) is unclear, but Ms. Sher in a statement of March 2016 that they began mentioning it to stakeholders "over a year ago" starting with the Community Board February 7 2014. But recollection of this party is that the University only mentioned or confirmed to outsiders that parks were proposed when directly asked in stakeholder meetings, and sometimes deflected the question. Emails indicated that both sides were aware there would be problems and opposition. Once siting was made public in the December 2014 Initial Bid, U of C officers asked whom this was coming from at least once said it was the Obama's and Foundation, which felt the library needed to be in an historic park.
c March 18 Mayor Emanuel proposed Hyde Park High School as the "primary site for school partnerships" if the Library comes to the South Side. The U of C in its emails touted urban agriculture to the Obama, according to Sweet in the Sun-Times, At that time Dyett was to be closed. Since it is to be reopened in 2016 and has a strong agricultural component and a community proposal for a green and agriculture component, perhaps if Washington Park is chosen, Dyett could be considered as another primary center.

February 11 2015 the Park District Board passed its ordinance of land transfer after over an hour of public testimony and a 45-minute closed session. The vote was unanimous except that Commissioner Koldyke was absent and President Traubert recused himself. Vice President Avis Lavelle is quoted in the Herald as saying "We don't want you to think your voice wasn't heard. Without your voices there would probably be moe inclusions in park space."
The Foundation responded with the following release: "The Foundation welcomes the action of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners which improve Chicago's bids for the Obama Presidential Center." "We appreciate the City of Chicago's efforts to develop a competitive and robust proposal and the engagement of the community and City Council in an open dialogue about the potential of a future Center. The Foundation is continuing to work with each institution to ensure we are able to make a comprehensive final recommendation to the President an first Lady."

Friends of the park sent a letter to the Obamas asking them to pick a non park site and continues to explore legal action.

Is it becoming political? It sure is. With run-off challenger Jesus Garcia issuing a strong statement February 26 opposing any placement of the library in parks and the Foundation citing its polls and seeming to insist on park siting and apparently still looking to a late March decision on bids before finding out April 7 who will be mayor! it looks like brinkmanship and muscling is the order of the day.
Chicago Forward, an Emanuel PAC, was conducting polling Feb 28 and March 1 with (to many Hyde Parkers writing in Good Neighbors) very leading questions and slamming Garcia for going against what "66% of South Siders" want. Expect more of the same from multiple sides.
The Garcia campaign issued the following statement Feb. 28/March 1- but their (Garcia's voice) robocalls have a shortened version that leaves out the reservations about it being in the park expressed in the release below.

"I have never wavered in my full support of bringing the Obama Presidential Library to Chicago. I served with the President in the Illinois Senate. I have always supported President Obama. His legacy -- and his library --belongs right here, in Chicago."

"While it is my view that the library does not have to come at the expense of public park land that has enormous historical significance for everyone in Chicago, I will support the South or West side site. As mayor, I will do everything within my power to make certain that the Obama Presidential Library is built in Chicago, and that the jobs and contracts that go with it benefit the community, as well."


Between the Jan 13-14 hearings and the Park District passage. Mayor Emanuel said the hearings show support, even if the library requires parkland. He would meet in short order with the Foundation, U of C and Park District "to come up with a consensus of what we do next" according to a Sun-Times article January 17. "I'll bring the parties together. Make sure I know what the remaining issues are and then we'll address them so that the President and his foundation can make the right decision. I want to remove any questions so that... it's an easy decision." He said it is "premature" but an ordinance would be drafted regarding transfer and what guarantees there would be on replacing parkland.
Jan. 21 the Mayor introduced an ordinance in City Council for vote March 18
(City Council skips Feb. this year for "election season"-- an open three-committee joint hearing is to be scheduled, but had not been as of January 28) which ordinance will "allow the library to be built in one of the parks"- to frame an intergovernmental agreement for the February CPkD board meeting (because the Foundation wants to pass on its recommendation for the Obama family decision in March--which will cut it close for the expected March selection of one of four bids by the Obamas even though sources to the dailies that have by implication seen draft) say it will be many months before which park and the actual site would be selected should the UC bid be selected).
Two provisions said in the Sun-Times Jan. 21 to be in the draft -- [it is] "expected that the foundation" [would use up to] five acres for the "presidential center" with the rest of the land "to remain landscaped open space"
- Tribune quote says "open space on the presidential center grounds" (which may mean the ordinance doesn't deal with whether that remaining acreage can be fenced and made off-limits to non-Presidential Center visitors-- how is "open space" defined?). Draft section that has been read to this writer explicitly says the library can only have up to 5 acres- this change was made after aldermen indicated the 20 acres was too much. So that rest will be maintained as landscaped. Caution: page 3 of the draft still says up to the c20 acres, or as much of that as the Foundation wants, but only up to 5 for the facility, the rest to be landscaped open space. SO 20 WILL BE CONVEYED, UNLESS THIS IS TO BE CHANGED WHEN IT COMES TO COMMITTEE. (Note, changes are often not incorporated in the body until the markup stage as presented to the committee or full City Council.) Alderman Hairston (pers. communication) is certain the land to be transferred and built upon is now 5, recognizing there will be much to discuss about public use and access in the re landscaped area.
LINK TO THE ORDINANCE (downloadable)-

There was a fuss when it became clear that only the up-to-five acres for the "Center" will be replaced with new parkland, however that is understandable if the land to be ceded is indeed only up to 5 acres.
The Mayor boasted and took credit for, as he and the Park District have in the past, for the hundreds of acres that have created new parks and green spaces in recent years-- and at least implied that is enough new parkland. This appeared at least to media that replacement for only the 5 acres is low-balling the value of parks (ed.- cheapening?), and the PD, which only gets one dollar for the swap. The Mayor and at least two (Will Burns and Pat Dowell) of the supporting aldermen said that is enough, but also seemed to introduce confusion about what is "open" land (let alone "free" or "clear") citing restrictions now on public use and access, so what's the difference if someone can't use the other 15 acres either- one can't do anything one wants anyway. So the concept of "open" land as well as its value is now in controversy. And apparently there is not a provision in state law or municipal code governing conditions and amounts of land trades, just that it can be done. Whether there is any provision in the Park District Code would have to be researched.

According to the Sun-Times, the Mayor/ordinance has also (a second compromise in addition to limiting the acreage) committed to "assembling a group of leaders from open space and community groups to identify nearby land (but Tribune says the draft says elsewhere in the city) that can be converted to green space to replace the green space lost [and to look for opportunities to reinvest and restore Olmstead [sic] parks" -- the Tribune says only the 3-5 acres for the Center will be replaced to the park district-- so the ordinance will have to be read carefully (after it has already passed).. The Tribune says (quoting its unnamed source) the committee will also develop guidelines to make sure the Olmsted vision is maintained in the acres surrounding the Center as well as throughout the park: "That... is why we're creating an open space committee aimed at figuring out how to revitalize and invest in the park now that it has such a major anchor investment in it. That committee will focus on the other 15 acres and the remainder of the park"). The draft is said to spell out how the foundation, city, and Park District relationship would operate. Such agreement will very likely transfer land to the city (c. 20 acres) in whichever park is chosen, ensure reversion to the park district if the Library is not built at this or the other location or closes, provisions for respecting Olmsted design though apparently not boundaries, as well as specifics of governing land replacement and park improvements, and cost - the PD would lease the land to the city at $1 (the nom-selected park(s) land reverting to PD control) and eventually a long-term land-lease with the Foundation (involving operations by the National Archives) would be signed. Chicago Park District will take up the agreements at its February 11 board meeting, 3:30 pm, expected to be at hq at 541 N. Fairbanks 4th floor, probably with a committee meeting a bit before. Sign up to speak can be online until the Tuesday evening before or in person up to one half hour ahead of the meeting. City Council will take it up March 18.
What is the authority cited in the ordinance (according to the Tribune) for such a transfer? An Illinois law that authorizes municipalities to convey, grant or transfer real estate held by the municipality to any other municipality upon the agreement of the respective parties. Nothing seems set a guideline for how this is done-- unless CPC Code does.
What does the ordinance say is the reason for this agreement (as quoted in the Tribune): "The city wishes to demonstrate its robust commitment to brining the Presidential Center to Chicago as it would indelibly seal President Obama's close and abiding relationship to the city as well as provide a unique cultural and economic opportunity for Chicago's residents."

Unknown is when the Foundation will disclose which park the President prefers-- Commentators have suggested that having one site indicated now by the Foundation would make it easier to both frame the intergovernmental agreement, make the process more transparent, and simplify things. One source to media suggested this may not happen until fall or winter. Noted: Jackson Park sites would have to be approved by the Plan Commission because under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance (but Washington site is important enough and a "planned development" so one expects it would also go to the Commission, as well as Community Development Commission and maybe others. However, that might not happen until an agreement with the Foundation is inked-- no one has said that the intergovernmental agreement would by itself go to the Commission. Ed. comment: the Plan Commission almost always goes with what a Mayor and the aldermen - the four involved have signed letters in favor-- want.

Open space groups are opposed not only to building in the parks but to any transfer or lease to the city (understood for purpose of leasing or transfer to a third party and are considering a lawsuit (even though buildings including for special uses or groups are often approved for parks, historic or not and land is frequently traded between the park district and the city and its sub agencies-- the groups cite a slippery-slope precedent and Friends of the Parks President Frances have said no amount of land would compensate and "park positive" is off the table ). they suggest with current move to digitalization the library and archives could be smaller than in the past and easily fit in 11 acres.
Among the groups that have sent FOTP letters in opposition to the library in parks:
Preservation Chicago
Cultural Landscape Foundation
National Association of Olmsted Parks
Landmarks Illinois
Bronzeville Historical Society
Washington Park Conservancy
Chicago Maroon (UofC student newspaper)
Hyde Park Historical Society

Thinkers about park and open space and architecture and the environment have written extended pieces with suggestions-- the Ranney's Mr. Birnbaum are referenced here. February 22 Blair Kamin published in the Tribune a very thoughtful piece on options and guidelines. His first concern is to not "trample on Olmsted's park treasure: Any Obama library plans must respect historic landscapes... proceed with caution." His choice would be to have it outside a park, such as along side Washington Park. He cites the newly published Olmsted Papers--Omsted's care with details as well as the whole, his aversion to adding different structures to the parks as compromising the purpose of large urban parks.
Kamin says the right question is not can the 11 acres accommodate the Library but rather, "Is all this acreage necessary?" It should be built on an urban model that encourages access by transit, walking and biking, and no surface parking lots.
But if the insistence is on having it in a park.... it has to stress sustainability and sensitivity and not be a detracting spectacle. His ideas include:

Planning: All the Olmsted parks have benchmark design years or "templates" and have undergone framework planning over the around 16-14 years ago and there has been revisitation, starting before at least most people were thinking Library and continuing now. The park district website, chicagoparkdistrict.com, Assets section, has the framework plans and much else about the parks- see for Washington http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/assets/1/7/Washington_Park_Framework_Plan.pdf.

What about historic register and other status? One would guess the change in registry park would have to be substantial, like that to Soldier Field, or to a section such as the arboretum and the Hyde Park London-type forum in Washington Park, but not necessarily. Opposition or reservation from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which reviews projects using federal funds for the National Trust and Park Service/Dept. of Interior, is among the reasons killing the proposed substantial change to the Washington Park lagoons in 2009. But IHPA did not object to the ACE project in Jackson Park. Sam Cholke in DNAinfo.com has reached out to the overseeing agencies for guidance. According to Cholke, Karen Mudar of the National Park Service said transfer of land from CPD to the city would not trigger their intervention. But request for federal fund use permits, licenses would trigger a "Section 106 Review." This would involve notification to and review of documents and testimony by many "interested parties." A 106 review is not about stopping but mitigation of plans-- of course if the mitigations asked were considered too onerous or counter to purpose, the project might be dropped. IHPA would also be involved in any request for state funds. Rachel Liebowitz, Spokesperson for IHPA told DNA that the state would also want to conduct archeological and other reconnaissance/survey before approving a project, for example in Jackson, where the site had several Columbian Exposition buildings such as Horticultural-- it is not clear (to this editor) whether such would apply only to the chosen "5 acres" site. It should be noted again that these kinds of reviews have not stopped structures in parks, including long-term leases (free for the Art Institute at least) to private institutions for as long as they forward their original mission.

Environmental impact studies would also be required -- how deep these are varies from project to project.

Questions include- what is the purpose of a park, especially one with historic design and protection? How special does a change or building have to be to past muster and be added to cluster already there? How does the proposal enhance the park and or the visitor experience or serve immediate and larger communities? How much restriction of open access is too much? How important, historic, nature-serving or replaceable are the current uses, features or spaces? And should the Library be considered public, private, or a partnership?

What do the local elected officials say? Those who have spoken in general strongly support the library, even if it has to go in parks, and the 4 closest aldermen signed a letter to the Mayor but have not commented to press. Alderman Burns, 4th Ward, seems to spoken at the most length. He told the January 24 HPKCC aldermanic candidate forum, as heard by this writer and confirmed in the January 28 Herald, that the President will decide the what and where adn will have to explain its value to the South Side."We don't know what the President is going to do... but if he chooses Washington Park he'll have to provide a design to the community for what that library will be. He'll have to talk about how that library is going to enhance open space. There will have to be a full conversation about the commitments that will be made to improve open space on the South Side of Chicago and that's where the community's opportunity is to engage with the presidential foundation to make sure that the presidential foundation becomes a win-win if it's selected for Washington Park."
Alderman Hairston has told groups that the University was secretive and disingenous and invited problems. She was not asked in this writer's presence whether she will oppose or vote against the ordinance of transfer.

What does the public say? The Foundation took a poll Feb . 9-16 in wards near Washington and Jackson Parks (3, 4, 5, 20), administered by Cornell Belcher's firm. 603 voters were asked, first if they supported the library on the South Side (90% for, 6% opposed), then, would they support if 20 or so acres were used in one of the parks (or similar)- opposed went up to 24%; finally they were told that if the parkland were not provided the library would not come- opposition dropped to 14%. The Foundation did not poll near any of the other bidders, where is not dispute over their siting.

A Tribune poll Friday Jan. 30 shows 62% of city residents supporting using parkland. The largest demographic supporting is 77% among African Americans. Supporters of Rahm Emanuel (supports) strongly support the library in a park, a slightly less majority of supporters of Chuy Garcia (wlho opposes) support the library in a park-- perhaps reflecting that non-Rahm supporters break towards Garcia, but a goodly majority of Fioretti's (who also opposes) supporters oppose the library in a park.
The University of Chicago also commissioned a survey in late January/February, which they say shows 80% support. The survey questions have been questioned. They can be read in the OPLSouthSide site.
BTW, according to the Tribune, almost every demographic (except whites-majority for) is indifferent or unenthusiastic about both the Lucas Museum and the lawsuit against it (pluralities opposing the lawsuit).
Letters and comments and columns for and against continue to pour into media and social media.
These range from view that the parks or park parts are underutilized or poorly kept up and well worth the cause especially since we've used parks for even private uses and structures seldom for celebrating blacks to view that these parks are specially designed and historic, that open pace should not be given up period and especially when there is long-vacant land in the area, and that the proposed spaces currently have many and diverse uses important to many-- in Jackson Park the track and field and in Washington the arboretum, public forum of especial importance to blacks and black history and the running bridle path. Also fear of spillover degradation of natural area and its experience in Jackson or playing fields an picnic and Dyett in Washington, and fear that there will be an escalation of public restriction in either-- people (especially black neighbors) feeling they and their uses are unwelcome, restricted permitting, and policing.


October 19-20 2018. The original 4 final bids including from U of C were released in response to a September 28 2018 subpoena to the Protect Our Parks lawsuit in federal court. Sun-Times article: https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/obama-foundation-under-pressure-releases-secret-u-of-chicago-bid/
Tribune Oct. 20 gave more information with a more nuanced tone. Here is the take of this writer, GMO.

The lawsuit only asked for the U of C bid, but the Foundation felt they should all be released. These bids for the OPL were solicited as confidential, though the request for proposals was open. One reason for confidentiality was that at least the U of C hired three highly noted design firms to come up with site and project designs and how they would advance inter alia public purpose and respect the sites (UofC's being mostly on public and park land that is also on the national register)-- these designs may have been considered proprietary for at least until the selection was made- in a selection process that was highly competitive. These firms were being encouraged to develop bold concepts that explored and came up with possibilities to improve their surroundings (including the whole of the three parks the OPL was to be sited in and for leveraging larger areas to create community benefit. Also, the University, funding the bid, also wanted an assessment of the three sites' relative benefit to the University (see below). Furthermore, there was test of willingness of potential large donors to give for the OPL and related improvements--including willingness of U of C trustees. So it was kept confidential, and doubtless controversy after the selection was made was one reason the confidentiality was maintained. By fall 2018, with lawsuit and its subpoenas coming to a head and there having been ongoing allegation (itself debatable) that the Foundation and ongoing process lacked transparency, the Foundation decided to gain consent of the bidders for release of the final bids with certain redactions-- mainly the donors individually solicited for their interest and reaction. Jeremy Manier, U of C spokesperson in a release October 19 said, "In its initial request for qualifications, the Obama Foundation indicated that it would consider the proposals on a confidential basis, for use in its selection of a host city. However, in light of developments, the proposals will now be available in the public domain, which the University of Chicago supports."

What were the three U of C concept proposals, and what were expected impacts on economy (by Anderson Economic Group), environment, recreation, and advancement of the University?
Jackson Park: New York-based Diller Scofidio + (Charles) Renfro (U of C Conference Center). A low-slung, angular building with wing like rooflines wedged into a grass-covered mound, as part of a new Museum Campus South, with Cornell Drive converted and a revamping of the golf course. It would "drive investment, improve the park, and the commercial corridors of Stony Island and 63rd Street." Re golf course see in the takeaways analysis.
The bid document summarized that "The OPL will be the anchor of a new master plan that revitalize jackson Park, assists with the development of urban periphery of the park and helps spur the development of the 63rd Street corridor." The Anderson report did say siting there (JP and Woodlawn) as well as South Shore was less likely to spark new businesses to move in, but rated it highest in likelihood of giving the University greater control over development (and doubtless ability to grow: "[development] would be somewhat more constrained [but] the University of Chicago owns some nearby plots of land that currently house student dorms, green space, and parking lots. This could allow the University to play a significant role in encouraging development at this site."

West part of Washington Park and adjacent land public and UC-owned at the Green Line station (NOTE THAT THIS SITE WOULD INCLUDE PART OF THE PARK INCLUDING AN ARBORETUM, a fact often overlooked by opponents who say Washington Park (neighborhood) should have been chosen): London-based (David) Adjaye Associates (National Museum of African-American History). A truncated come on top of a mound that framed the arrival plaza, a performing arts theater, public plaza, and community center. Touted the "most potential transformative change." The Anderson report said, "Of all the proposed sites, this one would be the most amenable to accommodate new businesses and investment that might come into the area due to the presence of a presidential library," being least developed and most accessed by public transportation. (In fact, the University had been land banking in th area, had supported the Olympic facilities in Washington Park, and was building an arts and performance complex reaching a culmination in 2018.)

South shore Cultural Center land north end of the golf course near 67th: Studio Gang Architects, Jeanne Gang (UC residential complex, noted residential buildings, Northerly Island remake). A low-slung compass-shaped building "would enhance the lakefront and existing commercial and retail development on 71st Street.


What the released bids do not show.

The document seems to shed little light on why public and park land and Jackson Park was proposed by U of C or selected by the Obamas.

They do not show a particular benefit for the U of C from redevelopment of Jackson Park, cf. benefits to the general public and general benefits to many nearby (i.e. public trust and interest). It is assumed in the proposals there must and will be overriding public benefit. (There will of course be changes on how the public will use that benefit, and that will be more intense than, with some exceptions, it is at present.) The public benefit seems to have been put first and the plans were developed to include public improvement and benefits for the public and city for use and for development and growth. Note- the bid did talk about closing Cornell and creating a Museum Campus South with MSI but did not include the later changes to the Midway or incorporating the roads just east of Stony Island into the OPC.)

It sheds little light on the contention in the lawsuit over public vs allegedly private use, and does not address who owns and controls the site-- U of C insisted from the start that it would not. The site and its buildings will be public land owned by the city, with costs born by the Foundation instead-- not the city or park district, and with public access as least as strong as other museums that have long existed in the parks and are almost universally thought to serve public interest. This is addressed in the proposed city use ordinance. The lawsuit also contends that state law precludes such use-- to see a contrary view by a legal scholar visit this pdf.

It sheds little light on the contention that it matters that this will not be a library vs a museum and public campus (President Ford's library and museum are in different cities), will not be a federal Archives site.

The document does show that the idea of redoing the framework plan for Jackson Park and of upgrading much of the whole park and its roadways were being considered by various parties. This will doubtless be considered by opponents as proof that these were driven by the OPC and to benefit it. But the city asserts it was looking at these matters and had many reasons they long wanted such changes especially to the roadways and adn Museum Campus South" and somewhat for the golf course (at east as early as the 2000 framework plan). But it was opponents and process-minded including Friends of the Parks who fought (and not only to stall) for overall park design planning -- the Park District refused to engage in a South Lakefront Plan process until into 2017 and it became a step necessary to advance the federal reviews by showing how the OPC and road and golf proposals would effect and fit into the whole park design.

Golf: The golf suggestions were among many floating since at least 2000. The later reaction of the Foundation to the new JPGA golf proposal, that it was not only not related but that they knew nothing of such could be considered disingenuous and strategic. The bid document said, ".. there is an opportunity to renovate and extend the Jackson Park course and even combine it with the 9-hole course at South Shore to created a tournament-grade, 27-hole facility." (The connecting dots run through the White House, City Hall, PGA mutual donors... but that does not tarnish the ambition in the bid to consider the opportunity.)

Reactions: In a statement, Jackson Park Advisory Council president Louise McCurry stressed educational and recreational enhanced benefits: "We can replace and replant trees, but we can't replace our children who need help now!"

Erin J. Adams of Southside Neighbors for Hope an organization supporting the OPC said in a statement, "The release of these bids should serve to remind us how competitive the process was for attracting the center to a given location. Let's just pause for a second to imagine that the center went to Hawaii or Columbia in New York City. Where would we be now?"

Brenda Nelms of Jackson Park Watch asserted that the University of Chicago's particular interests drove the plans for the OPC and golf merger, and therefore the city should not vote on the ordinance but review with community input.

Return to top of this file ObamaPLibrary.htm

Updates December 31, 2014 and January 3 forward 2015-- expect further updates and discussion. The recommended sites are in Jackson Park between Stony and Cornell, 60th and 63rd (larger than most had expected) and Washington Park between King and Elsworth, 51st an 55th/Garfield- the later including 11 acres owned by U of C CTA and possibly others on the NORTH side of Garfield Blvd.

Hearings. The matter was presented and discussed (not a hearing and no action taken) at the January 12 Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting. Most of the 20 or so speakers were for the Library on the South Side but opposed or had reservations or questions about siting it in a park, particularly the historic Olmsted parks and in Washington at the arboretum, or about transfer of land in an Olmsted template from CPD to the city. Some strongly supported the library if in a park and said the Obama Library meets the bar for park appropriate. No actions were taken. The JPAC board's position was simply that "JPAC welcomes the Obama Library on the South Side of Chicago."
January 13 an evening public hearing was held at Hyde Park High School and January 14 a noon public hearing was held in Washington Park fieldhouse. Both had overflow audiences of more than 1,000. There have been differing takes in media and blogs about how well the overflow was accommodated, orderliness (moderator Avis LaVelle had to call for order several times at the Hyde Park High meeting), significance of demonstrations mostly on side issues for which the demonstrators wanted linkage, and the degree of support vs opposition. Most agree that the proponents outnumbered the latter, but many noted that large numbers were bused in by churches, schools, arms of the University and the city-- and certainly were (allowed or simply signed up first) allowed to speak first after the elected officials. Many of the opponents and some supporters recommended most or all at lest of buildings be on the 11 acres west of the park currently owned by U of C and CTA and currently on the table along with the 20 acres along the west edge of the park. . A short presentation of sites and benefits preceded by Skidmore, Owings, Merrill architect Philip Enquist.

January 5-forward 2015. The daily papers announced that Mayor Emanuel took control of the land acquisition and siting issues of the UC bid. THE CITY SET UP TWO HEARINGS FOR NEXT WEEK, RULED OUT SOUTH SHORE CULTURAL CENTER AS A SITE, AND PROPOSES THAT THE NEEDED LAND (particularly any needed park land, which could be over 20 acres) BE CEDED FROM THE PARK DISTRICT TO THE CITY.

January 8. After lengthy board discussion, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference affirmed its support for having the Obama Library on the South Side of Chicago; it did not offer an opinion on the siting or conditions in the U of C bid.

January 11 2015Tribune (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-chicago-washington-jackson-park-obama-library-south-side-perspec-0104-20150109-story.html) carried a feature by highly respected George and Vicky Ranney with 5 points for principles and compromise on the Library, largely endorsed in the Tribune's editorial that day. (Perhaps these could be recommendations to the Foundation for developing its plan.)
The p0ints
(in addition to a brief history of the historical character and footprints of the two parks and what kinds of "make-ups" would not be acceptable): 1. Minimize building in the parks and greatly reduce the amount of acreage to be used to c. 5 (observation: the 20 in effect becoming nothing more than an "in this area" For Jackson that is harder, suggested was at or near a place in the proposed site suggested by Olmsted in 1871 for an admin. bldg. For Washington the building should be outside the park.
2. Replace used land with new or reclaimed park acreage, including removal of service yards in both parks. (Observation: The Project 120 framework already designated many blocks of acreage reclaimed for traditional park uses.) The Ranney's also propose putting Cornell Dr. underground to reconnect the west edge, and library, to the lagoon natural area. (Observation-- this would difficult, expensive and possibly harmful to the natural areas and water table; suggested in the new framework is a drastic road diet and calming for Cornell Drive.) They also suggest, as do others, reopening the south entry and pavilion of the Museum to the park--which was the main entry to the Palace of Fine Arts.) (Obs.- the west is already so done, could have a walk from there around the north side of the Basin including to the South Steps MSI entry and pavilion.)
3. Convenient public access and transportation including hubs and shuttles. Place parking outside the parks or underground; if Jackson find a way to share with MSI's.
4. Exploit synergies with existing community and cultual institutions including the University and its Harris (Law, SSA...) schools.
5. Restore and revitalize the parks.


The Tribune emphasized that the designated acreage is way too large, that no acreage elsewhere would make these historic parks whole. The Tribune hopes that by the time of the hearings a way will have been found to leave the parks alone, else UIC has to be considered or other sites such as Lakeside have to be brought back. It asks, what does the President wish for his legacy-- revitalizing distressed neighborhood or grabbing priceless legacy park land?

Lynn Sweet in the Jan. 13 2018 Sun-Times urged that an oversight board be set up with authority. She said the President favors the Washington Park site.

An excellent summary and analysis is provided by Charles Birnbaum in Huffington Post Jan 12? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-a-birnbaum/will-part-of-chicagos-his_b_6455036.html.

The U of C after these announcements says it wants 22 acres in Washington Park or 20-21 in Jackson. Washington's would be on the west edge west of Ellsworth between 55th and 51st and would go with 11 acres outside the park. Jackson's would be on the west edge west of Cornell between 60th and 63rd. In both cases the library would be expected to take up between 5 and 10 acres with the rest green space and a non-concrete promise of more parkland "nearby" than lost and park improvements. All 4 aldermen whose wards include the sites signed a letter of support qualified with need for "oversight." Ald. Burns and Dowell and the Sun-Times call for a spelled out agreement including benefits but support the move, Burns calling it a matter of equity esp. for WP neighborhood and Bronzeville, touting development for every South Side community. Ald. Hairston had not yet revealed a position. Ald. Moore was said to be very concerned about the loss of parkland and city takeover. Marty Nesbit of the Foundation tried to downplay the concerns and said that all 4 bidders were upgrading their proposals and praised UC for releasing more information and more community engagement. Sen. Durbin said the first family is concerned about the "loose ends" in Chicago. Of the park councils. Cecilia Butler of WPAC told the Sun-times she had lunch with the UC team leaders and told them of her strong opposition to the WP plan (that, inter alia would threaten the arboretum). (The main facility threatened in Jackson is the track and field paid for by NFL and Take the Field Foundation led by Park Board president Bryan Traubert and his wife Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.) Jackson PAC so far has said only that it would like see the Library on the South Side. Based on statements, Bronzeville groups support but want benefits agreements, South East Chicago Commission enthusiastically supports. Friends of the Parks has again issued a clarion call for not in parks but supporting west of Washington Park or the UIC bid.
Public opinion ahead of the hearings, as gauged in Good Neighbors block is strongly divided, with lots of cogent points made by the writers.

In the January 3 Sun-Times, Lynn Sweet reported that in response to concerns of the foundation about the UC Bid, specifically lack of progress and progress on land assembly and control and land being currently under 2ndary municipal agencies including the park district and CTA, the Mayor's Office will take charge and announce a process in the following week. Meantime, she said, the University has put the most problematic site, South Shore Cultural Center on a back burner (being lakefront and landrmarked, so likely to invite a lawsuit and opposition as well as being out of the university's area of closest convenience and interest) and is giving priority to the 55th-King area- whether that continues to include library partially in the park or some improvements/adjuncts in the west edge of the park was unsaid.

The December 31 2014 Chicago Sun-Times (Lynn Sweet) and Chicago Tribune (mmharris) and other media reported that the Foundation told the remaining Chicago bidders (UC and UIC) and the city that it has serious problems with the bids. How serious is hard to determine. The main concern with UIC's is with lots of turnover in leadership at the campus and UI and the state, concerns that are likely answered with strong letters of endorsement. That with UC seems to be more serious-- lack in the bid of a plan or assurance to have the property in hand and ready to convey. According to the articles, the Foundation wants at least that the city control the land and be in a position to commit it, if possible by the end of the first quarter of 2015 when the Obamas are supposed to select the bidder-- but that may be allowed to slip. It is also possible to read in the articles that, based on reports and Mayoral spokesmen statements which indicated ongoing meetings of foundation representatives with the city as well as the University, the Foundation would like the site to be theirs-- which the Mayoral spokesperson said is off the table-- it must remain "public"-- notice, did not say "parks." Reports say that the land being now in Park District rather than city property ready to convey (particularly Jackson and South Shore Cultural Center and part of Washington) is at the heart of the Foundation's concern-- they don't want stages of transfer and negotiation or the land belonging to a party that is not clearly the City of Chicago and think the city should have had control of the land at this stage regardless of whatever swaps are needed to ensure no loss of parkland, public access, community input etc. All parties (Foundation, city, UC...) say they are fully aware of the obstacles presented by opposition or concern to use or giving away of park land and threats of litigation, but seem to think they can get around it, but that would seem difficult in the short timeframe-- and taking longer may solidify opposition. (Friends of the parks has recently sent a letter directly to the Obamas asking them not to choose park land but rather the site west of (and to be outside) Washington Park or else choose the UIC bid.) Friends of the Parks says conveying land the park district for new parks and or improvements to the selected or other parks is unacceptable and the "the land is not the U of C's to offer" and that transfer-- calling it city land-- is not acceptable. Compounding this is that the bidder has not submitted a formal ask to the Park District (although they have been in discussions.) Park Board President Bryan Traubert (whose wife Penny Pritzker is a member of President Obama's cabinet and who with his wife is a prospective donor to the Library) recused himself in fall 2014 from dealing with or voting on the matter when it comes up, putting in charge vp Avis Lavelle, who insisted there must be community process and cannot be loss of (total?) park land.

June 23, 2014 JPAC members were surprised to see in the Chicago dailies in early June that that one of the close-in bid RFQ applicants with sites for the Obama Presidential Library, the University of Chicago, was said to propose three sites in or at parks, including Jackson, north of 63rd across from Hyde Park Career Academy between Stony Island and Cornell Dr. and one possibly spanning 67th at the shore into South Shore Cultural Center property. According to quotes and attributions in the July 2 Hyde Park Herald with UC VP Derek Douglas, the University did not propose sites but said they would like to see the library on the south side but would support what the Obama's want and work with any institutions they designated. Nevertheless, he said, the bid "suggested" three locations that it thought could benefit economically from the library, apparently the sites they say they did not propose. (Leaders of the UC bid had previously told community organizations they would not be specific but hinted a preference for the E. Garfield site west of King Dr.-- more recently that site would take a small part of Washington Park such as for a garden.) In December, the Chicago Maroon quoted University Communications officers as saying UC is exploring a collaboration with the University of Hawaii wherein the physical library would be on the South Side of Chicago with a virtual link or site in Hawaii. Final bids from the final 4 are due December 11 with Obama/foundation decision as early as January.

The University and media are now pressing for people to go the Foundation site (obamafoundation.org) and encourage selection of the South Side stating how the library would help the South Side and what the South Side could bring to the Library. Advocacy groups on the other hand are gearing up to oppose any siting on park land. It has been pointed out that libraries are complex, with lots of security and space needs. Some councils are looking at ways the Library could be leveraged for park improvements and community benefits. University and park representatives have gone to South Shore's council to gauge sentiment and are expected to come to JPAC in January. Neither Jackson Park Advisory Council nor South Shore CC AC have take votes or positions, but have had discussion at meetings (SS more-- SS wrote a letter to Supt. Kelly asking for someone to come, which they did in November).
The December 2 Chicago Maroon reports JPAC President Louise McCurry as saying the University (sr. assoc. vp Sonya Malunda) has reached out to JPAC asking for advice and agreeing to come to the January meeting. McCurry was cited as saying at the November JPAC meeting that 63rd and Stony Island was a potential site and said in a later interview with reporter Ankit Jain that that site would work logistically. [However, McCurry appeared to this writer to be referring to the area of old shops south of 63rd, not the open space to the north, although that was not clear.] The Maroon cites McCurry as saying JPAC wil not make a decision on the Library until they see more details "The thing is, we don't know yet where they're going. We'll look at the proposal carefully and see what's there. At this point, having the Obama library anywhere close to us in Hyde Park would be wonderful."
Vice President Frances Vandervoort, the Maroon said, "warned that the council would be monitoring the potential environmental consequences of the library very closely. 'We will do our best to ensure that we hold the University's feet to the fire in terms of environmental support,' she said."

MEANWHILE ALSO DECEMBER 1, FRIENDS OF THE PARKS ISSUED ITS FIRST EVER 10 MOST ENDANGERED PARKS, as reported in a Hyde Park Herald issue that hit the streets ahead of the city dailies or broad distribution of the Release. Listed #1 was the section of Burnham Park over which FOTP is suing on grounds that the site is reclaimed landfill from navigable Lake Michigan and therefore under law in reserve in the public interest. Listed as #2 is the Jackson Park site for the Obama Library, #3 South Shore Cultural Center and #4 Washington Park as sites for the Library. FOTP's and President Cassandra Francis' public statement announcing the list says that the list "includes parks and open space which are threatened or have an uncertain future due to inappropriate development, neglect, inadequate funding, damaging policies, or harmful Administration actions." "In the next 30 years, Cook County is expected to grow by almost 17 percent, adding over 850,00 residents and over 435,00 more jobs. This growth further creates the convergence of adverse forces: the demand to build in our urban open spaces versus the need of city residents and visitors to access these open areas as a respite from increasing urban density... This is why it is so important to preserve and expand our city's open natural areas. Our parks and open spaces are the 'lungs of the city' providing not only crucial quality of life benefits but also increasing the competitiveness of Chicago relative to other North American cities."FOTP makes the distinction that it enthusiastically supports the Library, including near a great park, but opposes placing it directly IN a park", Francis adding "These are historic Chicago parks and they're very intentionally planned as large open spaces. In particular when there's so much vacant land in the city and in these neighborhoods we would oppose siting in the park and would encourage the U. of C. to look at some of these alternative vacant sites and bring the energy to a neighborhood where economic development is so necessary." She suggest a high-rise building west of Washington Park. According to the Herald, University of Chicago spokesperson Jeremy Manier cited the enthusiastic support of South Siders in over 200 meetings for the library, cited benefits, and declined to comment on the FOTP list or the library in a park.

ALSO DECEMBER 2 , it was revealed in a Sun-Times article that the Park District is taking a close look at the matter of using park land for the Library. Chicago Park District. President Traubert as of the November CPD board meeting, has recused himself from discussions and votes because of his close involvement funding park improvements and his wife Penny Pritzker's involvement in the Obama Administration (where she is Secretary of Commerce) and likely because they would likely donate to the Library. Lead responsibilities, according to the Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, will be taken by Commissioner Avis LaVelle. LaVelle promises to seek "public input. over giving up public park land in Chicago, no matter how worthy the cause." Sweet quotes LaVelle as telling her "It is clear there will have to be a process... There will have to be a deliberative process that allows for full discussion, and input from all stakeholders." Likewise, Susan Sher of the University told Sweet December 1 that she has talked with Superintendent Kelly and the UC intends to be "park positive." "Of course there will be a public process. But our discussions have been about restoring park lands" and making sure the "parks are more beautiful and restored." Sweet said Sher did not specify what the UC would pledge but that lost acreage would be made up-- "no decrease and hopefully an increase in park land that is accessible to the public."

Jackson Park is in a historic, Federal Registered Olmsted park, and South Shore Cultural Center is city landmarked. Many will oppose another facility. public or private on in a park, especially on on or an extension from a Lakefront that is supposed to be open and clear. JPAC has not yet considered the matter. The bids will not be released publicly by the Foundation. Whether U of C will be more specific in the actual RFP, if asked to submit one, is unclear. The U of C bid website (which says nothing about sites) is http://www.oplsouthside.org.
Friends of the Parks may host a public meeting on the future of open space and parks tba.

Proposed community benefits agreement from Washington Park neighborhood groups

1. Develop a Southside Trauma Unit by joining Cook County Provident Hospital and the University of Chicago Hospitals
2. Retention of affordable and low-income housing
3. Training programs resulting in job creation and a living wage
4. Fence in all vacant lots owned by the University of Chicago
5. No displacement of any tenants in buildings acquired by the University and give tenants an open-infinity lease
6. Help create a Solar Power Energy Incubator
7. Share community plans, stated or unstated, with community residents
8. Provide Washington Park residents the same and/or similar benefits afforded to residents in adjoining communities, i.e., Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, and Woodlawn
9. Grants for residents of Washington Park for education, i.e., kindergarten through degree programs
10. Partner with the Chicago Park District to create a ceramics program with a kiln
11. Retain the standards of the Chicago Park District and remove all signage from within Washington Park
12. Set up a construction apprentice training program, resulting in the position of journeymen
13. Support the creation of a Green Community Co-Op grocery store
14. Support the Washington Park Historical Society with the use of the historic Green Line"El"
location on Garfield Boulevard (55th Street)
15. Through legal assistance and tax workshops, inform Washington Park residents about the services (as provided to Beverly residents) for maintaining property taxes while increasing property values
16. Support the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and keep it within the public school system and create pre-apprentice and vocational training programs
17. Proper acknowledgement of Lorado Taft, and the prominence he created for the Midway Studios
18. Identify the real estate corporations within Washington Park that are affiliated with the University of Chicago
19. Assist in creating a recycle and reuse manufacturing site near the train tracks between Perry and LaSalle Avenues
20. Support the creation of jobs from the Industrial Corridor located within the newly formed Washington Park TIF from 63rd to 67th Streets, from Prairie to the Skyway
21. Scientific examination on the ComEd electro magnetic towers on the railroad tracks east of the Dan Ryan and their harmful effects
22. Keep the Washington Park Forum in the Tree Arboretum
23. Softball stadium on the Harold Washington Common Ground

UC releases at time of RFQ (initial) submission)
(see separately Chicago Tonight program June 16 2014)- http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/06/16/chicago-contenders-obama-library)

Dear Community Partner,

Yesterday, the University of Chicago submitted its response to the Barack Obama Foundation’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ). This is an early step in making the case that the South Side would be an ideal location for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, and many individuals and organizations in our neighboring communities and elsewhere in the City have been an important part of this submission.

Over the past few months, many of you have met with us or other University leaders, written letters of support, or shared your ideas about the cultural,
economic, and collaborative opportunities the Obama Presidential Library could bring to the South Side of Chicago. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to this historic process.

Sometime this summer, we expect the Barack Obama Foundation to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to the most competitive applicants from the RFQ phase. We hope the University will be invited to participate, and we look forward to continuing to work with our community partners, the City of Chicago, elected officials, civic leaders, and cultural and educational institutions to deliver a strong proposal to bring the Library to the heart of the South Side.

We would like to keep you informed on our efforts. Visit the oplsouthside.org website to sign up to receive regular email updates.

To read the University’s announcement about our RFQ submission, [see below].


Susan S. Sher
Senior Advisor to the President at the University of Chicago

Derek R.B. Douglas
Vice President for Civic Engagement

University to submit collaborative proposal for Barack Obama Presidential Library on South Side (news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/06.15/university-submit-collaborative-proposal-barack-obama-presidential-library-south-#hash.iZ20dA.dpuf.)

Potential partners meet to discuss ideas for maximizing library’s impact
By Jeremy Manier
June 15, 2014

After months of consultation with a broad set of community and university partners, the University of Chicago will submit a proposal on June 16 to the Barack Obama Foundation in support of locating the Barack Obama Presidential Library on Chicago’s South Side.

A UChicago faculty committee that examined presidential libraries concluded last year that it would be in the interest of the University to bring such a project to the South Side. The June 16 submission will respond to the foundation’s request for qualifications, issued in March, which asked interested organizations for a range of supporting information.

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Barack Obama Presidential Library on Chicago's South Side Would be 'economic boon,' study finds
Learn more about the effort to bring the presidential library to the South Side

Building the potential for collaborations around a presidential library has been a key part of the University’s effort. In the course of dozens of meetings, community members and organizations have expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the potential of a presidential library to make a substantial economic impact on the South Side, and to create a vital cultural destination drawing visitors from around the globe.

“We believe this could be an historic moment for the South Side,” said Susan Sher, senior advisor to President Robert J. Zimmer. Sher is coordinating the University’s activities around the presidential library project, inviting partners from across Chicago and beyond to generate ideas for how the library could make a distinctive impact on the South Side — and how the community could provide unique opportunities for the library.

The University is proposing that the presidential library be located off-campus, in one of the neighboring communities that could greatly benefit from the economic development the library would bring. An economic impact study that the University commissioned estimated that the library project would create 1,900 new, permanent jobs, with $220 million in annual economic impact and 800,000 annual visitors. The report also projected that in the neighborhoods surrounding the library, the development could support 30 new restaurants, 11 new retail outlets and a new hotel.

Federal law provides that presidential libraries are independent, non-partisan institutions managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. President Obama’s library will be constructed with funds donated to the non-profit Barack Obama Foundation, which has announced a phased process for choosing a site. After the RFQ phase, the foundation has said it will issue a Request for Proposals to the most competitive applicants, with final selection of a site in early 2015. The decision of where to place the library is up to President Obama and Mrs. Obama.
Fresh ideas for collaboration

Although the specific nature of programming at the library will be determined by the library’s leadership at a later date, the foundation’s RFQ indicated an interest in developing partnerships with multiple organizations. The University has convened meetings with numerous groups that have expressed interest in participating, and those talks have yielded ideas from a wide range of organizations.

To highlight a few of the many promising ideas, some of the potential collaborators came together recently to discuss how a presidential library could make a difference on the South Side while educating and inspiring young people from around the world. The panelists were Torrey L. Barrett, Executive Director of the KLEO Community Family Life Center; Dr. Byron T. Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God and Chairman of the Network of Woodlawn; James G. Keane, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago; David R. Mosena, President and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry; Kamau Murray, President and Founder of the XS Tennis and Education Foundation; and Sophia Shaw, President and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Shaw is prepared to offer the Chicago Botanic Garden’s counsel in building garden components at the library, creating “a thriving place for learning, for inspiration, and for growth.” She noted that the Chicago Botanic Garden already administers extensive efforts in sustainable urban farming across Chicago, including a 20,000 square foot garden on the convention center rooftop of McCormick Place near downtown Chicago. Her group partners with many Chicago institutions to offer training for youth, adults, and ex-offenders.

Barrett said he is excited by the possibility of hosting joint events with the library to complement his organization’s efforts to help young men recently released from the criminal justice system. Partnering with the library could allow his group to expand its programming for grandparents raising grandchildren whose parents were victims of violence, he said. Engaging with the community would help the library inspire youth to learn how to become involved in politics, Barrett said.

The Museum of Science and Industry could work with the library to expand its outreach in STEM education and science clubs, Mosena said. That involvement also could motivate students and educators to “be part of a dialogue on how public policy about science is shaped by a president, and how it can shape the nation’s future,” he said.

Murray sees the presidential library as potentially an ideal partner for efforts like XS Tennis, which provides free tennis instruction to 2,000 Chicago students per week and is the nation’s largest minority tennis foundation. His organization is ready to work with the library on outreach to students through efforts like free tutoring and nutrition education.

“This will be a great place for organizations to come together to really change the narrative of what our youth feel is possible,” Murray said.

Such ideas give a sense of the immense possibilities that the Barack Obama Presidential Library could bring to communities on the South Side and throughout the Chicago area, Sher said.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the city, our neighbors, and organizations large and small to make this a reality,” she said.

Public Questions and Comments about the Obama Library and U of C Bid
at the January 12, 2015 Jackson Park Advisory Council

Edited by Gary Ossewaarde

Questions were answered mostly by Derek Douglas, U of C President for Civic Engagement, some by Sonya Malunda, Senior Associate Vice President for Civic Engagement.
Two minutes were allowed for each question and each answer. Time was kept by JPAC treasurer Dwight Powell.
Nearly everyone who spoke prefaced that they would welcome the Library to the South Side, and several told what they believe and hope it will bring or mean to communities and the city .

Q. Could you use the U of C land outside Washington Park rather than the park?
A. We need to ensure there is enough room for a campus to ensure a strong bid.

Q. How much land is available owned by UC, the city and agencies west of Washington Park?
A. About 11 acres, of which 6 1/2 is owned by the University. How to assemble it is an issue, especially since some is spoken for. A major objective is to not displace.

C. The Washington Park Conservancy supports the Obama Library on Chicago's south side, but NOT in the park. (The suggested site for the Library in Washington Park is the site of the Washington Park Arboretum, the largest arboretum in Chicago.)

C. Use the land west of King including going over roads and Green Line and nearby to north.
A. The former Robert Taylor Homes land is spoken for, including for XT Tennis.

Q. What are the organizations by the Washington Park site that support this? I don't know anyone who wants to give up our parks.
A. Washington Park Advisory Council, KLEO, DuSable Museum, Museum Campus South, businesses- a total of 89 letters.
Also, there are several sites the Foundation would not accept. Accessibility is another point the Foundation insists upon. We would enhance the park.

C. The King Dr. site is ideal. The bar should be high for taking parkland for institutions-- this fits the bar. And it is Obama. And lots of museums and other facilities are in parks. Such opportunities are the only way to get resources for parks.

C. The letters you cite are for the Library, but how many of those sending knew that, support it will be in a park? Some organizations have moved to rescind or revise their letters since they found out.

C. We need to think creatively to renew our parks and communities. This has many possibilities. It will require lots of talking.

Q. Will this be done to bring real resources to communities rather than gentrify? Cited a conspiracy to clear certain populations out of the South Side.
A. Columbia is using land that displaced and was contentious; we are not. We are intentional from the start to redevelop with affordable options-- there's so much vacant land. Cited Mattie Butler of WECAN that displacement won't happen. This is not UC driven and the city has control of lots of empty land and will set the rules. We will plan and collaborate together. The Library will be transformative.

Q. Parks are an irreplaceable resource for people that can never be reassembled- once gone, it's gone for good. (Applause). Find a spot not in parks. Organizations like JPAC should carry out their responsibility and stop frittering away our parks (drew a repost from the president of JPAC).
A. We will improve the park and return more than is lost. The Library is not cannibalizing. And it's not UC, we are just providing options.

Q. Can we not revisit Lakeside or Michael Reese, where thee wil not be park loss or displacement?
A. Not our choice.

Q. How much good will just a new building do? We need something spectacular to turn communities around.
A. We will not abandon communities- will partner to do a lot of other things.

Q. We are still hurt by how land west of Washington Park was acquired. What is your plan for it?
A. For future growth. Ald. Powell made it plain we can't just landbank it. We've been building, such as Incubator. Lots of charettes have been going on.

C. Displacing trees is not better than displacing people. Parks aren't land banks either.

Cassandra Francis, president of Friends of the Parks, was invited at this point to read a prepared statement (pre-ask). They are thrilled about the Library and against building in parks and especially in heritage parks intentionally designed and irreplaceable. The acres west of the Washington Park would be ideal, as would the UIC bid and the deign should be "urban". 25 acres is too much in any case. It's the University's responsibility to listen, Chicago's to decide.
A. Lots want it in the parks and our responsibility is to all voices. (Back and forth: Does the Foundation understand? The parks are brides. The Library will bridge communities, and the University is going to take all the input back to the Foundation.

C. (disagreement about the stance of a community organization).

Q. Who in the Foundation represents the communities>
A. Marty Nesbitt, who has all the letters and input and has a Facebook page on the Library. They also talk a lot with the Obamas.

Q. Will a Library bring an increase in policing, maybe also harassing our youth? While the University does not have a trauma center for the community or the President.
A. Disputed the implications-- we all swim or sink together in shared interest. The University is doing much for South Side healthcare.

C. The library is important and huge including to the future of kids and would be a major asset in one of the parks; the problems would be worked out.

JPAC president Louise McCurry made closing statement, thankful for the many voices that have come to be heard.


Some local organization positions re Jackson Park.

Jackson Park Advisory Council board. JPAC welcomes an Obama Presidential Library on the South Side of Chicago.

Hyde Park Historical Society. The Hyde Park Historical Society strongly supports siting the Obama Presidential Library on Chicago's Southside. Our respect for President Obama is immeasurable and his legacy is beyond doubt. However, building the library on our public parklands in Washington or Jackson Park would seriously compromise either of Chicago's, and the nation's, most important historic parks. These two great Southside parks must be preserved for future generations.

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. The Conference strongly supports the Obama Presidential Library on the South Side of Chicago but was not able to reach a conclusion about siting or conditions of the University of Chicago Bid.

South East Chicago Commission enthusiastically supports the Library. (not having seen the resolution this writer is unclear at present as to what else it says.)

KEY PROVISIONS IN THE DRAFT ORDINANCE authorizing intergovernmental agreement transferring PD land to the City for $1.

pp. 3 and 4. Defines the sites to be approx. 20 acres (they are more precisely described in the exhibits and the draft IGA (intergovernmental agreement) but "it is expected that the Foundation would devote approximately five (5) acres of the selected site to the Presidential Center, and the remaining land would remain landscaped open space..."

"Whereas it is unknown" which site will be preferred "or a portion thereof" the site selection expected during the fall or winter 2015.

The City wishes to acquire...the Park District wishes to convey.... in exchange for the loss of green space"... the deed for the selected site will have a reversionary clause, providing that the selected site will revert to the Park District if it is not used as part of the Presidential Center."

"The Mayor is committed to assembling a group of leaders from open space and community groups to identify nearby land that can be converted to green space to replace the green space lost to teh construction of the Presidential Center and to look for opportunities to reinvest in and restore Olmsted parks."

"There will be a separate ordinance authorizing development, construction, and operation of the Presidential Center." A "long-term ground lease" will be drawn up with Foundation, which in turn will have an agreement and sublease with the NARA (National Archives).

Citations of authority: Article VII, Section 10 of the 1970 Illinois State Constitution-- authorizes "local governing bodies sot cooperate in teh performance of their responsibilities by contracts and other agreements."
Intergovernment Cooperation Act, 5 ILCS 220/1 et seq.: "authorizes public agencies, including units of local government and school districts, to contract with one another to perform any government service, activity, or undertaking."
Local Government Property Transfer Act, 50 ILCS 605/0.01 et seq. authorizes "municipalities to convey, grant, or transfer real estate held by the municipality to any other municipality upon the agreement of the appropriate authorities..."

BE IT ORDAINED: Section 3 provides the city will acquire the site for $1. The Department of Planning and Development will secure , convey, negotiate. All contrary ordinances et al are repealed as respects this matter.

The acquisition will be by quitclaim deed complete and final except for the reversionary clause.
The park district is to continue to maintain until construction starts but will not make major changes.
The sites and center are subject to all environmental laws and regulations.
No third party is to have any benefit or right from the agreement.


deleted as untimely

Obama Foundation selects Presidential Center Architects.
By Gary Ossewaarde
June 30, 2016, The Obama Presidential Foundation selected
as design principal for the Library nationally-renowned and South Side Chicago experienced Tod Williams/Billie Tsien Architects, teamed up with South Sider-owned Interactive Design Associates. The selection is a bold statement by the President for inclusion and recognition of female and minority talent—Billie Tsien is an Asian-American female. Interactive’s Dina Griffin is an African-American female who has strong ties and engagement to the South Side and Hyde Park and a Kenwood Academy graduate and is well known to some of JPAC’s members. Her firm participated in design of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Eckhardt Center at the University of Chicago and is a certified female and minority firm. Williams/Tsien designed the Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago Campus, and that building and its use of spaces, and the team’s local experience (which included focus groups) are said to have impressed the Obamas, who were also impressed, according to the Foundation, with Williams/Tsien’s respect for the Olmsted and Vaux park designs, for Chicago’s architectural legacy, for the history and potential of the neighboring communities, and for design that is “thoughtful, dignified, beautiful, and understated.”

There was no indication that the site would be anywhere other than in Jackson or Washington Park, although additional land across from Washington Park has been offered. The design task for the designated spaces (about 5 acres of buildings in about 20 leased acres of the chosen park) appears to be daunting and complex. The Center will include the Library and Archives proper, a strongly interactive and immersive open Museum, programmatic space, an Institute of Civic Engagement, foundation offices, dining, likely a garden, and a presidential suite—not to mention parking and other accommodations for visitors. It has to be secured, but also serve intentionally as an active and visible center for the neighborhoods, helping driving their revitalization. Exactly how will the complex be secure, and welcoming, and work respectfully with (while inevitably bringing change to) both the hosting park and the neighboring community? How are voices for park and community brought into play? The advisory council of the selected park will be one of several civic and community bodies that will weigh in on these matters. No exact timetable for site selection was given in the press release—it will be “very soon” or “before the end of the year.” The architectural team will have a major role in selection of the site, hopefully bringing to bear their South Side experience and involvement.


The Foundation has been asking for ideas of what citizenship is and how the Center can promote it.

David Simas, Foundation CEO, sent on February 24, 2017 the following :

In his Farewell Address as President, Barack Obama made this request of us: "I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to make change, but in yours."

This faith in each of our capacity to make a difference in our world has been the guiding principle of President and Mrs. Obama's two decades in public service. And this same belief is the North Star of the Obama Foundation.

That's exactly why we have asked you to add your voice, to tell us what good citizenship means to you and what you want this Foundation to be.

We asked, and you answered.

"Being a great citizen is about showing up, standing up, and speaking up when change needs to happen. "

We've received hundreds of thousands of your ideas, photos, stories of citizenship, and suggestions for working together on building this Foundation. And we want you to keep them coming,

Emerging themes: You talked about the importance of information and education to healthy citizenship. Thousands of your submissions emphasized the importance of staying informed on issues, both local and global, affecting your world. Many of you explored the roles of both traditional and social media in democracy.

We heard hope and fear in the face of a complex world. Many submissions focused on attitudes that inform good citizenship: hope, optimism, pragmatism? — ?and how to manage and channel worries and fears in a complicated and changing world.

You expressed an understanding that citizenship is bigger than any one person. Another consistent theme in your submissions was the importance of looking beyond your own interests to support those in need. You told us how you respect those who approach our country's problems with an attitude that we're all in this together.

Gary, this is just the beginning. We'll be asking a new question every week and encourage you to keep coming back to share your ideas. Your submissions will continue to inform how we focus our efforts:


Thank you,

David Simas
CEO, Obama Foundation

At its February 13 2017 meeting, JPAC voted to set up a committee to review and seek coordination among the construction projects and proposal in light of the whole park, inviting stakeholders, proposers/planners, and the overseeing governmental bodies to participate. The question of larger planning will probably be addressed by Alderman Hairston's newly appointed Advisory Council.

Herald article on CBA March 17, 2017.

Staff Writer

Representatives of three south side community organizations that work in communities surrounding the future home of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park came together at Island Terrace Apartments, 6430 S. Stony Island Ave., Thursday morning, March 16, to denounce the formation of a new organization that they said excludes them from being a part of efforts to have community input in the building of the Obama Presidential Center in favor of well-connected operatives promoted by special interests and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

About 40 people were in attendance at the meeting, which was held in the first floor social room of the apartment building. During the meeting, several speakers described what they see as an attempt to leave them out of any plans for the redevelopment of the neighborhood in the wake of the building of the Obama Presidential Center.

Representatives from Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and Prayer and Action Collective (PAC) spoke against what they see as outsiders and politically connected local power brokers working with the current city administration to exclude real voices from their community.

“It’s a shame, there is no need to create an organization to try to undermine the community,” Jeanette Taylor said.

She said community residents have been meeting two or three times a week since last summer but were not informed about the Next Street organization, which recently gave a presentation at the 5th Ward meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center and will present again at the upcoming 8th Annual Woodlawn Community Summit on Saturday, March 18.

During the 5th Ward meeting on March 9, representatives from Next Street, an organizational consulting firm, gave a presentation outlining a proposal for a new, yet to be named organization that would “drive and manage the growth” seen as coming to the neighborhoods of South Shore, Woodlawn and Washington Park in the wake of the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC).

During the March 9, presentation Next Street representative Charisse C. Johnson said the new organization is envisioned as a way to “encourage growth on the south side” and “tap into the urgency and the energy of these times.

Investment and involvement in the community, an assessment of each neighborhood’s strengths and needs and “growth without displacement” were some of the ideas and concepts mentioned at the March 9, meeting.

“It’s a shame that the Obama foundation would not do its job and seek out the community group that has been working in the community and who has a real community based process,” Taylor said. “Instead they choose to put together the usual suspects who like to be the face of their false community involvement. It excludes voices that disagree.”

Taylor named Rev. Byron Brazier and Torrey Barrett of K.L.E.O Community family Life Center as two of the individuals who are pretending to represent the community without actually doing so.

“These people need to wake up,” she said of the Obama Foundation. “They are not getting our input. We do not need a CBA that doesn’t help the young black and brown people of the community we need a CBA that will properly respond to the needs to the community that will be impacted.”

William Thomas, a student and the University of Chicago and a member of the Prayer and Action Collective, said the university should help make sure the CBA has true community involvement.

“The University of Chicago has a history of supporting development projects that have pushed a lot of people out of the neighborhood, especially black people,” Thomas said. “It has a responsibility to support its neighbors by signing a legally binding agreement. ”

Michele Williams added some historical perspective, saying she had seen black people moved from their homes and seen the promises made to them broken time and time again in her 75 years as a Chicagoan.

“We have been removed from neighborhoods over and over,” Williams said. “They tell us ‘you can come back.’” I don’t care who lives here, I just don’t want to move.”

Williams said the foundation has “come to us as a community. We want you to include us, not exclude us.”

Williams also complained about the lack of involvement from the Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

She has meetings but what about the people who can’t get out?” Williams said.

Williams expressed her love for former President Barack Obama but made a distinction between the man and his Presidential Center.

“When it’s built, who’s going to be running it?” Williams asked. “The little people do care about you but we just don’t want to go out of our neighborhood.”


Competing UC faculty letters oppose, endorse OPC in Jackson Park.

That opposing, from January 2018 and headed by Prof. T W Mitchell can be found in the Chicago Maroon and Hyde Park Herald.

Letter of support. (Was still being circulate for further signatures.)
Chicago Maroon February 9, 2018

By Alex Ward
Members of the University faculty and staff are circulating a letter in support of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
The letter has more than 50 signatures from faculty and staff as of the time of publication. It follows another faculty letter published last month asking the Obama Foundation to consider alternate sites for the Center.
The letter highlights the Center’s potential to create jobs and spur growth, contribute to Frederick Law Olmstead’s original vision for Jackson Park, and inspire civic engagement in the surrounding community through its focus on education.
The letter’s authors also say they hope the Center will provide an opportunity for members of the University to interact with the surrounding community. “We look forward to University-OPC collaborations that can enhance our diverse University community, facilitate our efforts in recruiting and retaining excellent staff, students and faculty, and provide new opportunities to link University research, training, and civic engagement initiatives in ways that strengthen individual lives and neighborhoods on the Southside.”
The letter concludes by encouraging community members to give feedback on the Center through the Obama Foundation’s official channels to solicit input, rather than through protest. According to the letter’s authors, “We recognize the problems inherent in planning any public project that touches many interests, but let us remember Chicago’s city motto “Urbs in horto”, (city in a garden) and not participate in the behavior that led columnist Mike Royko to suggest a change to “Ubi est Mea” (where’s mine?).”


In Support of OPC in Jackson Park
In 2015 the Obama Foundation chose the South Side of Chicago as the site of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), and in 2016 chose the specific location of Jackson Park. This choice of location is deeply intertwined with President Obama’s vision for the OPC: “More than a museum with stories from the past, we want this to be a place that helps all of us to build our collective future” (2018). We, members of the University of Chicago community, are signing this letter to express our support of this mission to build up and invest in the Southside, to break down barriers, and to encourage new and stronger collaborations between UChicago and our surrounding communities.

The OPC has great potential to be transformative for the Southside. It will bring much-needed attention and investment to our often neglected communities, leading to new jobs, businesses, housing, and improved infrastructure. Equally importantly, the OPC will extend the City’s lakefront cultural landscape deeper into the Southside. The proposed OPC campus will transform an underutilized strip of Jackson Park into a beautiful setting that welcomes visitors and neighborhood residents alike.

The choice to locate the OPC in Jackson Park is historically appropriate. Jackson Park itself was originally conceived by landscape architects Olmsted and Vaux as a space whose beauty would provide moral uplift to “thousands of the very class of citizens whose convenience most needs to be considered…the toiling population of Chicago.” Daniel Burnham’s 1909 “Plan of Chicago” adopted this vision, declaring “the Lakefront by right belongs to the people”. Over the last century the city has built beaches and recreational sites, nature areas, and 11 non-profit and largely privately funded museums in its parks. That investment has largely gone to the downtown and Northside, while Jackson Park was shamefully neglected. The OPC campus, with its open grounds, recreational amenities, and community programming, will bring the park closer to fulfilling Olmsted’s democratic vision of access for all.

The OPC will also directly benefit the University community. The Jackson Park location, within walking distance of the campus, opens new opportunities for faculty, students, staff, and their families to engage with our surrounding communities. The Obama Foundation has purposely minimized the role of the OPC as an archive and is dedicating the site instead to education and training on civic engagement “...to prepare the next generation of leaders to take the baton and take their own crack at changing the world” (President Obama, 2017). We look forward to University-OPC collaborations that can enhance our diverse University community, facilitate our efforts in recruiting and retaining excellent staff, students and faculty, and provide new opportunities to link University research, training, and civic engagement initiatives in ways that strengthen individual lives and neighborhoods on the Southside.

It is our hope that the University and Southside communities can come together to realize the vision of Barack and Michelle Obama in setting forth the plans and programs for the OPC. We recognize the problems inherent in planning any public project that touches many interests, but let us remember Chicago’s city motto “Urbs in horto”, (city in a garden) and not participate in the behavior that led columnist Mike Royko to suggest a change to “Ubi est Mea” (where’s mine?). Let us not ask the OPC to solve all our problems, but instead allow it to serve the catalyzing purpose for which it is designed. Let us focus on its programming, benefits to youth, and stimulus to the economic development of our neighborhoods and their residents. The Foundation has encouraged community input on the OPC plans; let us make suggestions that will positively shape the OPC to make it the strongest center it can be, with the goal of uniting us in moving forward. We close in again expressing our strong support for the OPC in Jackson Park and for the Obama Foundation staff who are planning it.

Please add your signature below (they will be updated daily)

Erin Adams, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Liz Moyer, Associate Professor, Geophysical Sciences
Ron Rock, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
David Weisbach, Walter J. Blum Professor, Law School
Omri Ben-Shahar, Leo Herzel Professor of Law, Law School
Brian Leiter, Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence and Director, Center for Law, Philosophy & Human Values
Phoebe Rice, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mary Anton, AB 70, MBA 79; Retired Staff
Nicholas Stephanopoulos, Professor, Law School
Anne Hamada, formerly married to the Dean Emeritus of Booth School, Robert Hamada
Daniel Holz, Associate Professor, Physics, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Robert Rosner, William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor, Depts. of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics, Enrico Fermi Institute, Computation Institute, and Harris School of Public Policy Studies
Shay McAllister, Staff, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Somaiyya Ahmad, Staff
Anthony Kossiakoff, Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
David Kovar, Professor, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
Edward Kibblewhite, Professor Emeritus, Depts. of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics, Enrico Fermi Institute, Computation Institute
Marvin Makinen, Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Lainie Ross, Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum Professor of Clinical Ethics
Carole Ober, Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor, Dept of Human Genetics
Ted Steck, Professor Emeritus, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Angela Olinto, Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor, Depts. of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Enrico Fermi Institute
Caitlin Castro, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Margaret Gardel, Professor, Physics Department, James Franck Institute
John Leonard, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Sidney Nagel, Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor, Physics Department, James Franck Institute, Enrico Fermi Institute
Vincenzo Vitelli, Professor, Physics Department, James Franck Institute
Sobhan Roy, Staff Scientist, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Abby Stayart, Program Director myCHOICE, BS Gender Studies '97, PhD Genetics '12
Leslie Rogers, Assistant Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Jerry Coyne, Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolution
Kineret Jaffe, AM '74, PhD '82; Retired Staff
Sally Horne-Badovinac, Associate Professor, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
Morton Silverman, BSD Faculty - retired
Cathryn Nagler, Professor, Department of Pathology
Olufunmilayo Olopade, Walter L Palmer Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Steve Cicala, Assistant Professor, Harris School of Public Policy Studies
Anne Sperling, Professor, Associate Vice Chair, Department of Medicine
Craig Hogan, Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics
Anthea Hogan, Supportive Hyde Park Resident
Anthony Reder, Professor, Neurology, Immunology, Neurobiology
Peter Savage, Associate Professor, Pathology
Ursula Storb, Professor Emerita MGCB
Judith McCue, Former staff, Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professioanl Studies
Bana Jabri, Faculty, Department of Medicine
Ellen Cohen, Staff
Melody Swartz, Professor of Molecular Engineering (W.B. Ogden chair)
Jeffrey Hubbell, Professor, Institute for Molecular Engineering
Fotini Gounari, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
Glenn Randall, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology
Eugene Chang, Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine
Albert Bendelac, Professor, Committee on Immunology, Department of Pathology
Adam Hammond, Curriculum Director, Biophysical Sciences
Amir Jina, Assistant Professor, Harris School of Public Policy Studies
Quincy Castro, Student, Booth School of Business


Tribune article summarizing much about the plans and controversies as of Feb. 2018. Blair Kamin and L. Bowean

Hours before making its final public presentation of plans for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, the Obama Foundation announced it will donate more than $3.5 million to build a new artificial turf field at the South Side park.

The turf will replace an existing field that is used for soccer, football and track. The Chicago Park District said in a statement the donation “will allow use of a field in Jackson Park to be uninterrupted by construction.”

The announcement comes as the foundation makes its final presentation to the public Tuesday before the plans go before the city’s Planning Commission. The foundation is looking to garner more public support and enthusiasm for the project.

Also on Tuesday, a Jackson Park advocacy group criticized the plan for roadwork around the Obama center as being too focused on the needs of the complex’s visitors, while the city’s transportation spokesman defended it for addressing “longstanding traffic safety needs” in the area.

The presidential center is expected to cost more than $300 million. The project has drawn national attention because it has the potential to transform a part of the South Side. Unlike presidential libraries, this project is considered unique and the first to be placed in such a populated, urban community.

The new field addresses concerns from residents and educators at Hyde Park High School who worried about where students would play while the center was being built.

Some community activists and watch groups have raised concerns that the project won’t create jobs for local residents, will bring more traffic congestion into the area, cause property taxes to rise and make the three neighborhoods around it ripe for gentrification.

The foundation has answered some of the concerns by appointing a manager to oversee diverse hiring and creating a collective made up of mostly African-American contractors to build the facility. That partnership, the Lakeside Alliance, has pledged to provide work for residents who live closest to the center, and to train and hire residents who are normally cast aside in the job market because of criminal backgrounds or other obstacles.

Still, when the foundation faces the public, its top brass will have to justify proposed roadwork and underpass construction that will cost the public about $175 million. And while the foundation has been touting a public library on the site, no formal plans have been approved by the Chicago Public Library board.

On Tuesday morning, residents pushing for a more encompassing agreement on community benefits said they would hold a prayer vigil before the foundation’s meeting to draw attention to displacement. The activists worry that lower-income African-Americans, seniors and disabled residents will lose their housing if property taxes and rents increase.

They want a signed contract guaranteeing long-term, well-paid jobs, as well as programs that assist with affordable housing and improvements to public schools. The foundation has rejected a “community benefits agreement,” and the activists have turned to the city with their demands.

“It is not unreasonable for black people on the South Side of Chicago to have a CBA to demand that construction and permanent jobs are guaranteed, that we are not pushed out of our community, and that we create spaces for our young people,” said Parrish Brown, head of the Black Youth Project 100’s Chicago chapter. “We want the CBA to be passed through a city ordinance to ensure that our community is kept safe.”

Also Tuesday, leaders of Jackson Park Watch, a park advocacy group, criticized the $175 million roadwork plan for the Obama center as an “undue and unnecessary burden on taxpayers.”

Yet in a sign that it will be hard to turn back the political momentum behind the center’s proposed location in Jackson Park, the group’s leaders said that they are not calling for the center to leave Jackson Park site but instead want the city to consider alternatives to the road proposal.

They cited, for example, the city’s plan to eliminate parking along Hayes Drive to increase that road’s capacity in order to compensate for the proposed closing of a portion of Cornell Drive through Jackson Park. Eliminating the Hayes parking will deprive parkgoers of convenient access to nearby playing fields and the 63rd Street Beach, Jackson Park Watch said.

The city’s plan “addresses only the needs of the (center’s) visitors and not those of other park users,” the group said.

Instead of closing a portion of Cornell to make way for the center, Jackson Park Watch is urging city officials to narrow Cornell as recommended in a previous plan for Jackson Park.

Asked whether the proposed roadwork would lead to gridlock, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Claffey said Tuesday that the planned widening of South Lake Shore Drive and the elimination of parking on Hayes Drive will be completed before a portion of Cornell Drive is closed.

Claffey also defended elements in the roadwork plan, such as a planned underpass at 67th Street and Lake Shore Drive, that are located far from the planned site of the Obama center. The underpass is a key element of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance’s plan to combine the existing Jackson Park and the South Shore golf courses into a single 18-hole course designed by Tiger Woods.

Features like the underpass are needed, Claffey said, because the city anticipates that the Obama center will lead to more car, foot and bike traffic in and around the park.

Such changes, he wrote, will address “longstanding traffic safety needs” that were identified in the Chicago Park District’s 1999 south lakefront plan. “The need for an underpass at this location will only become more apparent with increased traffic and recreational activity in the park, regardless of whether the golf course proposal moves forward,” he said.

The public meeting will be held at McCormick Place and start at 5 p.m. with a presentation. There will then be five break-out sessions where residents can get a more detailed look at proposed street changes, how the center will look and what the visitor experience will be like.