Obama Center scraps above-ground parking garage after neighborhood opposition

Obama Foundation

The Obama Presidential Center, near Lake Michigan on the south side of Chicago, will get a taller, slimmer and more transparent museum tower than the previous version revealed past year. The center will include a 235-foot-tall museum, a forum building for community programming, a library, community athletic center and an outdoor plaza.

"While we don't expect everyone to agree with every element of the plan, we look forward to working with people across the community and the city to make the most of the opportunity to create a global destination that will showcase the South Side to the world", a spokesperson for the Obama Foundation said. While the faculty is in favor of the center choosing a location near the university, they're opposed to giving away land in a historic public park and believe the proposed location wouldn't do much to stimulate economic development.

"Michelle and I want this center to be more than just a building". "At a time of increasing complexity and pressure in urban life, Chicago should be dedicated to preserving our public parks as open areas for relaxation and play for all its citizens". But the patchwork "remedies" presented by the Obama Foundation do not address the fundamental problem of Jackson Park being the wrong choice for the center.

The majority of the campus, Obama says, will be open to the public.

Obama Foundation
Obama Foundation

A parking lot, of course, privileges cars and those who can afford them.

The professors are also highly critical of the now-abandoned plan to construct an above-ground parking garage that was meant to utilize parts of Midway Plaisance, protesting that although "public lands are being given away, all the profits from this parking lot will go to the Obama Foundation". "Overall, this is a socially regressive plan".

In its current location, the Obama Presidential Center will not provide "promised development or economic benefits" to the local community, the professors wrote in the letter, and will cost taxpayers as much as $100 million in infrastructure renovations to the surrounding area. "We are concerned that these are not the best ways to use public funds to invest in the future of Chicago", the letter says.

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