Chicago profs blast 'socially regressive' Obama Center plan

Obama Presidential Centre

The Obama Presidential Centre

The Obama Foundation is in ongoing talks with the Chicago Public Library about opening a new branch on the site as well. 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.

It looks to many neighbors that the only new jobs created will be as staff to the Obama Center, hence the widespread support for a Community Benefits Agreement.

Now that the Obama Foundation has acquiesced to neighborhood demands that its parking garage not be placed on the Midway Plaisance, it's time to revisit the entire plan to place the Obama Presidential Center in 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.

The Obama Foundation is submitting its plan this week to various city departments.

Obama Presidential Centre
The Obama Presidential Centre

The Obama Center as now planned will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhoods.

Back in his community-organizing days, Barack Obama would have been the one fighting to save historic public parks from developers. The campus will be built in the historic South Side Jackson Park. "Overall, this is a socially regressive plan". However, it questions the decision to locate the center in Jackson Park.

What that means - according to the letter - is that while IL taxpayers will be responsible for financing at least a portion of the construction of the Obama Center, if and when money comes in from tourists visiting the center and paying for parking, the state will not see a return on that investment. Finally, it is the taxpayers of Chicago who are going to be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for this project, according to estimates by the Chicago Department of Transportation. "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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