“Months before the official groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), residents and commuters were already noticing changes to the landscape near the lakefront.
“Yet, for many people, the scope of the area’s impending transformation didn’t really hit home until the trees came down, hundreds of trees—some more than a century old—seemingly taken for granted by OPC planners. And the Women’s Garden at Jackson Park was recently uprooted to the dismay of local residents who’d been told by the Obama Foundation that it would be left intact.
“It does not take a ‘tree hugger’ or a preservationist to realize the ecological damage that has been done overnight, which has wider implications for the city. The Southeast Side, for example—if not the entire South Side—notoriously suffers from environmental pollution and can hardly afford to spare a square foot of greenery.
“Studies show the Jackson Park trees removed about 350 pounds of air pollution a year and absorbed two hundred tons of carbon. They additionally provided a cooling effect and a needed respite for Chicagoans. Proponents of the OPC in Jackson Park have assured the public that they will replace the tree deficit with the same number of young trees, but frankly, we may not see the Lake Shore canopy return to its former glory in our lifetimes or ever.
“The trees that were cut consisted of roughly forty species of mostly healthy mature trees with trunks that were up to fifty-nine inches in width and acted as both food and shelter for birds and wildlife. The majority of birds that inhabit or migrate through the state descend upon the shores of Chicago’s Lake Michigan in a route that is known as the Mississippi Flyway. All kinds of bird species, plant species, and animals and insects, were co-dependent on the Jackson Park ecosystem that has been disrupted.
“This piece of protected land has been coveted ever since it was host to the World’s Columbian Exposition and dating further back. But today, through a combination of legislative maneuvers, Jackson Park has gone from having public oversight to being controlled by private hands.” (Serrato, South Side Weekly, 9/30/21)
Obama Presidential Center will displace vital South Side Chicago trees, advocates say; The Center will remove hundreds of trees that provide cooling in the summer, cleaner air, and a quiet respite for residents—but promises to re-plant the area and provide an economic boost, Krystal Vasquez, Environmental Health News, 8/31/21
Activists fearing ripple effect of Obama Presidential Center call for affordable housing protections in South Shore; Activists from South Shore believe the presidential center will bring with it investment and higher home prices and rents that longtime residents will not be able to afford, Mitch Dudek, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/28/21
Obama Presidential Center Construction Officially Begins In Jackson Park; After years of delays, the Obama Foundation and the city have finally started to build the presidential center in Jackson Park and overhaul the area’s road layout, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 8/16/21
U.S. Supreme Court Denies Petition To Stop Obama Center Construction In Jackson Park; Protect Our Parks had filed the petition Aug. 16, the same day the Obama Foundation broke ground for the presidential center, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 8/19/21
Op-Ed: The Obama Center and the fight to preserve Jackson Park; Advocates say an alternate site in Washington Park is less disruptive and more beneficial to the community and the environment, Leonard C. Goodman, Chicago Reader, 8/3/21
Obama Presidential Center scores construction permits; Official groundbreaking on the $700 million project is less than a month away—that is, if it doesn’t get held up in court, Jay Koziarz, Urbanize Chicago, 7/29/21
The Obama library is coming to Chicago. Will local residents be displaced? Complex slated for South Side’s Jackson Park prompts fears that low-income Black residents will be displaced, Taylor Moore, The Guardian, 5/24/21
To Make Obama Presidential Center Succeed, Local Business Leaders Must Support It, Former President Says Ahead Of Construction; The former president compared his center’s plans to “great civic projects in Chicago” like Millennium Park in an appearance with economic leaders, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 6/7/21