As former President Barack Obama took the podium for his presidential center’s groundbreaking, a group of activists gathered to call for affordable housing protections for the South Shore neighborhood.
The neighborhood, which is located just to the south of the Obama Presidential Center, could experience a rise in prices due to the nearby development.
“This particular development will have a ripple effect in Black communities,” Shannon Bennett, a leader of the Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, told the Chicago Sun-Times. A plan that would protect owners and renters in South Shore is almost finalized, but the coalition still needs to set up a time to work out details with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
About 30 supporters of the coalition showed up at 60th Street and Stony Island Avenue for a press conference on the same day as the groundbreaking.
“This is the community that sent [former President Barack Obama] to Springfield. This is the community that sent him to the Senate. This is the community that sent him to the White House, and we should be the community that gets to stay and benefit from the presidential center,” South Shore resident Dixon Romeo said.
Coalition members fear the new presidential center could bring investments and higher home prices and rents that could drive out longtime residents. Bennett mentioned how the Lincoln Park neighborhood had been gentrified and became one of the city’s “wealthiest and whitest enclaves.”
The Woodlawn Housing Preservation ordinance, which was adopted in September 2020, sets $4.5 million aside for different housing programs in the neighborhood surrounding the soon-to-be presidential center. It also established an affordability requirement for 30 percent of the new housing units that will be built on more than 50 vacant lots owned by the city.
Construction on the Obama presidential center has faced a number of hurdles, including appeals from local advocacy group Protect Our Parks, which wants the center to be built two miles away in Washington Park.
[CST] — Victoria Pruitt