Obama Presidential Center project clears federal review

$500M complex expected to draw visitors, developers to South Side

National /
Feb.February 04, 2021 12:15 PM
President Barack Obama and a rendering of the Obama Presidential Center (Getty)

Former President Barack Obama and a rendering of the Obama Presidential Center (Getty)

More than four years after plans were unveiled to build the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, a federal review of the project has been completed, paving the way for a groundbreaking later this year.

The years-long environmental review found the $500 million construction and surrounding road repairs would not have a significant impact on the area, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing city officials and the Obama Foundation. A groundbreaking could happen in August, and initial work could start as early as April, according to the report.

Former President Barack Obama announced the news in a video posted to his Twitter account Wednesday, saying “the center will create jobs and economic opportunity, especially for South Side residents.”

“We know that by working together, we can unlock the South Side’s fullest potential,” he added.

The project has served as a source of pride for Chicago with the promise of drawing thousands of visitors each year. It could also open up opportunities for multifamily investors and developers to build in the area.

But it has also received pushback from residents in surrounding Woodlawn, who fear it will contribute to gentrification, with rising home prices making the neighborhood increasingly unaffordable. In July, city officials negotiated a deal that will require developers to include affordable housing for projects on city-owned property in Woodlawn. The agreement, worked out with residents and the local alderman, will also provide up to $20,000 in funding for home improvement work to some homeowners.

The city hailed Wednesday’s announcement as a “major milestone,” according to the report, and touted the investments that would follow, leading to more jobs and improved infrastructure. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the center will “distinguish our city’s historic South Side as a world-class economic and cultural hub.”

The federal reviews were conducted through the National Environmental Policy Act and are related to a process to measure the center’s effect on protected parkland. Jackson Park is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In an interview with Crain’s, Obama Foundation chief engagement officer Michael Strautmanis responded to the timing of the review’s completion, coming two weeks after former President Donald Trump left office and President Joe Biden was sworn in.

“I am not going to look to see why we got this now, at this point,” he told the publication. “I just know that we’re here, and it’s been a long road to get here, and I’m ready to get started.” [Tribune, Crain’s] — Alexi Friedman


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Make Greenland Great Again? Trump wants to buy Arctic territory
Make Greenland Great Again? Trump wants to buy Arctic territory
Make Greenland Great Again? Trump wants to buy Arctic territory
Hamptons’ priciest summer rental to host MAGA extravaganza next month
Hamptons’ priciest summer rental to host MAGA extravaganza next month
Hamptons’ priciest summer rental to host MAGA extravaganza next month
RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos (Facebook)
RE/MAX revenue ticks up in Q4 but profit sinks
RE/MAX revenue ticks up in Q4 but profit sinks
U.S. District Judge John Campbell Barker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled the eviction moratorium to be unconstitutional. (Getty, Texas Attorney General)
National eviction moratorium ruled unconstitutional, but remains in place
National eviction moratorium ruled unconstitutional, but remains in place
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
State will use undercover testers to combat housing discrimination
State will use undercover testers to combat housing discrimination
Zillow COO Jeremy Wacksman (Zillow, iStock)
Zillow using Zestimate to streamline cash offers for some homes
Zillow using Zestimate to streamline cash offers for some homes
(iStock/Photo Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Dubious gentrification study will backfire on New York City
Dubious gentrification study will backfire on New York City
Home sales were the busiest January on record, but still the fifth month of decline in a row. (iStock)
Pending home sales fall for fifth consecutive month
Pending home sales fall for fifth consecutive month
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...