“In a last-minute bid to derail a project that finally appears to have a lot of momentum, opponents of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park have released some flashy schematics of how a reimagined center might instead be built elsewhere on the South Side.
“The artist’s renditions, based on rough designs by South Side architect Grahm Balkany, are only a concept for how the center and an adjacent parking structure could be built just west of Washington Park, on land mostly owned by the city and University of Chicago that earlier had been pitched to the Obama Foundation.
“‘This is a citywide, not just a neighborhood issue,’ said Richard Epstein, the group’s attorney, in an interview. There is no reason to risk ‘irreparable’ harm to Jackson Park if an alternate is available, he asserted.
“Protect Our Parks has talked for a while about potentially using the land across the street from Washington Park. The University of Chicago years ago pitched that location as a possible site for the presidential center, according to Protect our Parks. The foundation, which is building the center, actually rated the site more highly at one point than the location on the west side of Jackson Park.
“Balkany said 18 to 20 acres of land are involved in his design, all but a small portion owned by local government or U of C. He conceded that the group has only begun discussing details with local officials and groups and that no elected official has signed on. But he insisted the schematics are ‘not a fantasy’ but instead a design based on publicly available data about how much space the center needs.
“As with the Jackson Park location, the proposal for Washington Park features a tall, iconic central structure, surrounded by greenery and some smaller buildings. Detailed cost projections and the like were not released. Protect Our Parks contends that the site not only will not require using park land but is more convenient to the Dan Ryan Expressway and Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line than the Jackson Park site, which is near Metra Electric Tracks and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.” (Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business, 7/27/21)
An Obama Center alternative? That’s what activists engaged in a long-shot fight against the Jackson Park plans are proposing—including a flashy design that they envision next to Washington Park, Greg Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business, 7/27/21