Activists gather near Mayor Lightfoot’s house to demand housing protections around Obama Center

Residents fear gentrification in the Woodlawn and South Shore neighborhoods around multi-billion dollar project

Mayor Lori Lightfoot with the Obama Presidential Center (Getty, iStock)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot with the Obama Presidential Center (Getty, iStock)

A group of Chicagoans worried about people being displaced by the new Obama Presidential Center have taken their concerns right to the mayor’s doorstep.

More than 75 people gathered on Saturday near Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home in Logan Square to demand protections against displacement ahead of the Obama Center opening in Jackson Park, Block Club Chicago reported.

The crowd, holding signs that read “Stop displacement of Black families” and “Woodlawn called dibs on the city lots” shut down the intersection of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues for more than an hour in an effort to get the mayor and city officials to protect residents from the rising costs of homeownership and renting in South Shore and Woodlawn.

The city has approved some housing protections for Woodlawn and promised financial support for a condo building in South Shore, but activists say it’s not enough to stop gentrification in the neighborhoods near the Obama Center site.

In March, Chicago’s housing department introduced a preservation fund for condos and co-ops for South Shore residents that will provide grants to homeowners for repairs to their units and to homeowner associations for building maintenance. The only condo the funds have been announced for is the 44-unit building at 6931-6939 South Crandon Avenue, which is expected to receive about $5 million initially. Approval has been delayed for months, but housing department spokesperson Eugenia Orr said that legislation will be introduced this summer.

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Rep. Robin Kelly said that she also requested $2 million in federal earmarks for the South Shore pilot program, but many residents say that amount would barely cover maintenance needed in a single building.

“If we can’t negotiate what we need in our community … that power structure needs to be removed,” South Shore condo owner Linda Jennings said.

Chicago non-profit Preservation of Affordable Housing is in the process of buying residential properties near the Obama Presidential Center in the hopes of keeping rents in check for longtime residents.

Lightfoot, who lives down the block from the protest site, didn’t make an appearance on Saturday and at least 15 police officers barricaded and guarded both sides of the block where she lived. Spokespeople for Lightfoot’s office didn’t respond to requests for comments.

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Community leader Shannon Bennett with renderings of the project (Getty, Obama)
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