Obama Presidential Center (OPC)

In the summer of 2020, when I drove through Jackson Park, just like every other part of Chicago it was destitute with an air of sadness. No cookouts, no snow cone vendors or motorcycle groups, no families heading to the lakefront close by and most regretfully, no preparations for summer picnics or gatherings like the Annual Chosen Few House Picnic thats happened every year since they moved from  behind the Museum of Science and Industry , just nothingness. Early June 2021, things are looking quite different, people are beginning to gather again and the city is moving into Phase 5, which is almost back to complete normalness. No one is certain what this means for the future of large gatherings, but the idea of it all feels great. All of this comes with the news that the Obama Presidential Center is slated to break ground in the Fall with all of its legal woes behind and community give-back discussed and hopefully resolved. Chicago has its strongholds, but this brings a glimmer of hope for the future.

What’s happening NOW:

According Chicago’s Planning and Development Department 

Updated June 4, 2021

The City of Chicago, through the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), is working on several roadway improvement projects in Jackson Park that will support the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and the South Lakefront Framework Plan update.

When these projects are completed, they will support a revitalized Jackson Park. Since it was originally designed by renowned landscape architects Olmsted & Vaux in 1871, Jackson Park has undergone multiple transformations in the last one hundred years which have altered the original design, including the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

The Chicago Park District’s South Lakefront Framework Plan (1999) outlined many of the proposed improvements now under consideration. The Park District recently completed a planning process (in April 2018) to update the South Lakefront Framework Plan, specifically for Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center. The 2018 Framework Plan update provides a plan for the next several years to respond to neighborhood needs and historic context, provide a vision for improvements, serve as a planning tool and outline priorities to deliver improvements in a coordinated manner.

Various proposed park projects and accompanying roadway changes within Jackson Park require a federal-level environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Here’s a comprehensive plan from the Chicago Department of Transportations (CDOT). In a nutshell, in preparation for the Obama Presidential Center & South Lakefront Framework Plan, the following roadway segments within Jackson Park would be closed and converted into open space:  

Cornell Drive between North Midway Plaisance and Hayes Drive  

South Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive  Marquette Drive between Stony Island Avenue and Richards Drive  

Northbound Cornell Drive from 68th Street to where Cornell Drive becomes two-way (approximately midway between 64th Street and 65th Street)  

The plan says traffic  mitigation would be in the form of signal timing and phasing changes, parking regulation changes, and capital improvements along key roadways and at key intersections to increase capacity would be implemented along with the roadway closures to accommodate the changes in traffic patterns. 

To completely understand the legal matters, visit The Chicago Reporter where the writer gives a break down of the issues that were discussed in a lawsuit brought on by Protect Our Parks to the U.S. District Court. As you may know, we are having this discussion because Judge John Robert Blakey ruled in favor of the city and Chicago Park District Tuesday that the presidential library campus could be built in Jackson Park.

What’s to expect:

(1) a 235-feet-tall museum building, (2) a forum building, (3) a library building, (4) a program, athletic and activity center, (5) an underground parking garage, (6) a plaza and (7) exterior grounds. You can see what all that would look like here.

What do the people want: 

Employment

  • A majority of jobs should go to residents from the communities surrounding the library.
  • Jobs should be set aside for hard-to?employ populations including: people in low income housing, ex offenders, youth, seniors and long?time unemployed.
  • Workforce development programs should be set up to meet local hiring requirements.
  • All jobs should pay at least a living wage.
  • Community should have input in hiring of security and other jobs that impact quality of life.
  • There should be quarterly reports which monitor hiring.

Economic Development

  • Development occurs without ultimately displacing present residents.
  • Develop a black business corridor and generally support local small business development.
  • Establish a revenue-sharing program with the Library and the black business corridor to support local community and economic development activities.
  • Set aside a majority of all contracts with the Library for minority-owned businesses.

Education

  • The Library should partner with local schools to enhance school programming, including curriculum, tutoring,

and other supports.

  • The Library should offer its programming free to Chicago Public School students.
  •  The Library should establish a relationship with Chicago Public Libraries and other area libraries to share resources.

Housing

  • Support the development of a Federation of Community Land Trusts in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  •  A significant guaranteed set-aside of new housing for low-income housing in the area surrounding the Library.
  • Create an emergency rental assistance program.

Transportation

  • Improve Metra Electric with input from community stakeholders.
  • Restore #1 Bus to its Official Route.
  • Facilitate transit-oriented economic development.

Sustainability

  • Sustain, increase, upgrade, and maximize green open space for local uses and local users.
  • Replace the 21-acre footprint of The Library with at least 21 acres of quality nearby park land, designed for,with, and by neighboring stakeholders, including state-of-the-art replacement sports facilities.
  • Establish a Green Infrastructure Master Plan for neighborhoods surrounding the Library.
  • Support and engage Sustainable South Side Community Council in developing resilience features applicable to all new development, upgrades, repairs, and future planning.
  • Appoint Sustainable Chicago representative from the City of Chicago to connect and translate its initiatives to applications in the neighborhoods surrounding the Library.

Obama on CNN with Anderson Cooper:

Former President Obama, discussed many topics from the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to fatherhood to politics. All relevant, but overall I thought his take on how we need to get things done effectively was most important. Obama feels that we have to have a more local approach to the issues instead of a broad one – especially when it comes to politics and how politics are covered in the media. See the interview here:

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