After a five-year legal battle, gentrification concerns and a federal review, Barack and Michelle Obama were expected to attend a celebratory groundbreaking take on their legacy project at Lakefront Chicago Park on Tuesday.
Construction on the site on the shores of Lake Michigan near the Obama family home and where the former president began his political career on Chicago’s South Side officially began last month. Work on the Obama Presidential Center is expected to take about five years.
The Obamas were to host an event that will be streamed online with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to limit crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“With your help, we can make this hub a catalyst for economic opportunity, a new world-class destination for the South and a platform for young people,” Obama said in a video announcement ahead of the groundbreaking.
The Presidential Center, which will be located on 540 acres of 19 acres of Jackson Park, will be unique among the Presidential Libraries.
Obama’s presidential papers will be available in digital form. The massive campus center will include a museum, public library branch, athletic center, test kitchen and children’s play area.
The initial cost of the center was $500 million, but documents released by the Obama Foundation last month showed it is now about $830 million. Funds are being raised from private donations.
Progress on the center has been delayed by lawsuits and required a federal review because of the location of Jackson Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. At the same time, fears about displacing black residents in the area developed into a year-long battle that resulted in the protection of city-sanctioned neighborhoods, including affordable housing.
Obama chose Chicago over several cities, including Honolulu, where he spent his early years. The former president has said he hopes the center will help propel the economic engine of the city’s South Side.
This is a part of the city that has special significance for Obama. The center is near the University of Chicago where Obama taught law and where Obama married and raised his two daughters. Michelle Obama also grew up on the South Side.
“When it came time to plan the Obama Presidential Center, we wanted to give something back to the place that gave us so much,” Michelle Obama said in a video announcement.
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Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Michelle Obama