Future of land near planned Obama Center in hands of community groups

Officials are hoping to spur development along a 4-block stretch of vacant parcels along 63rd Street

Former president Barack Obama and the Chicago skyline (Credit: Getty Images, iStock)
Former president Barack Obama and the Chicago skyline (Credit: Getty Images, iStock)

A pair of Woodlawn community groups is expected to release a plan by the end of the year spelling out development goals for a four-block stretch of mostly city-owned vacant land steps from the planned site of the Obama Presidential Center.

City officials will wait to see the report authored by 1Woodlawn and the Network of Woodlawn before they make any decisions over what to do with the properties, according to the Chicago Tribune. Both groups are led by the Rev. Byron Brazier, whose Apostolic Church of God has been advocating for development in the neighborhood for decades.

Brazier’s father and the Rev. Leon Finney, a prolific Woodlawn property owner, both persuaded city leaders in 1997 to tear down to a stretch of defunct Green Line tracks along 63rd Street between Woodlawn and Ingleside Avenues. The land remains vacant, and some of it belongs to Finney.

City-owned tracts along 63 Street in Woodlawn (Credit: Google Maps)

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City officials will draw up a “preliminary development plan” for the site based on the community groups’ findings this winter.

The future of the Obama Center and nearby development has been thrown into question by the looming departure of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Willie Cochran (20th), who was indicted on corruption charges and will not run for another term next year. A group called Protect Our Parks also sued to hold up construction of the project in Jackson Park.

A few blocks to the west, county officials in August issued a request for redevelopment of the Washington Park National Bank building near the 63rd/Cottage Grove CTA Green Line station. []

And to the north, the University of Chicago began construction this summer on its 1,300-bed Woodlawn Residential Commons dorm complex. [Chicago Tribune]Alex Nitkin