Construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago will move forward this year after a four-year federal review and other delays, officials said Wednesday — a massive and controversial project that ultimately cost taxpayers $274 million.
Former President Barack Obama chose a South Side lakefront park as the site for his presidential library in 2016.
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However, the plan was immediately controversial and hit numerous snags due to a legal battle with park preservationists and protests from neighborhood activists. Locals fear the planned $500 million center will displace Black residents, many of which are poor.
Chicago’s City Council has since approved some neighborhood protections, and a four-year federal review process that was needed because of its location in Jackson Park — which is on the National Register of Historic Places — has finally been completed.
Obama Foundation officials said the city will begin pre-construction work in April, including the relocation of utility lines, with actual construction starting as early as August.
Obama himself described the center as a hub for youth programming and public gatherings that will jumpstart the economy on the city’s South Side, much of which are impoverished.
Besides the $274 million in taxpayer money already cashed by the Obama Foundation, more funding must still be raised through private donations.
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Additionally, further lawsuits are still being filed to stop the center’s construction — including one to stop Nike from sponsoring the athletic center.
No…building an athletic center will only take away land that invites "the community to take part in physical activity year round,”…it's a public park and nature preserve! Wake up!https://t.co/ccuovA1c3l
— Protect Our Parks (@parks_protect) January 20, 2020
The multi-building complex will sit on 19 acres of the 540-acre Jackson Park and include a museum, public library branch, athletic center, children’s play area, and a test kitchen. Obama’s documents will be available in digital form.
The Obama Foundation will also donate up to $3.5 million toward a public track and field facility in the area, city officials said.
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“With this final step in the review, Chicago is now officially the home of the presidential center for our country’s first Black president,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “The Obama Presidential Center and nearby capital improvement projects will undoubtedly distinguish our city’s historic South Side as a world-class economic and cultural hub.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this article