UPDATE: Obama Presidential Center future not settled

Despite a federal judge ruling to dismiss the lawsuit intended to stop construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park, the future of the Center still remains uncertain.

The Protect our Parks (POP) group is preparing an appeal to that ruling with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In its recent newsletter, POP noted it has retained Professor Richard Epstein from the University of Chicago Law School to represent it during the appeal.

Beyond the lawsuit, there will also be a lengthy and exhaustive federal review process of the plans under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, given that the OPC is planned for construction on a National Register-designated historic park.

“We will be a diligent consulting party during the federal review,” said Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago. “Given the complexity of the site and this development proposal, it is expected to be a lengthy process.”

The federal review process is intended to determine the impact federally funded projects will have on natural areas and historic buildings and sites and to seek mitigation strategies to reduce negative impacts.

“We stand with the community in wanting to see the Obama Presidential Center built on Chicago’s South Side,” Miller said. “We absolutely think it should be located on a site other than Jackson Park.”

“The Washington Park site (located next to the Green Line station and across the street from Washington Park) received a higher score than the Jackson Park site, and it would make an ideal alternate location,” Miller said. “For the last 2 years, the University of Chicago has been actively acquiring parcels in that area. They should go forward with turning that land over to the Obama Foundation for its presidential center.”

“Despite rhetoric to cast it as such, this is not a North Side/South Side divide,” said Mary Lu Seidel, Director of Community Engagement at Preservation Chicago. “This is about people from all over the region, the nation and the world speaking up for a world-renowned Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux landscape in Chicago. Chicago does NOT have to negatively impact that park in order to invest in the South Side and build an Obama Presidential Center. It’s heartbreaking to see it come down to this.”

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