Obama Presidential Center

Obama Presidential Center to Break Ground This Summer After Long-Awaited City Approval

"From the beginning, Michelle and I knew there was only one place for the Obama Presidential Center: the South Side of Chicago"

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Former President Barack Obama, along with Chicago city officials, announced official plans to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center this summer after a long-awaited approval.

The Barack Obama Foundation is expected to start construction with preliminary work of the center in the second half of 2021, with physical construction likely to begin in August, a release said.

The announcement comes as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot revealed a years-long review process for city plans supporting the center had been completed.

"With this final step in the review, Chicago is now officially the home of the presidential center for our country’s first Black president," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "The Obama Presidential Center and nearby capital improvement projects will undoubtedly distinguish our city's historic South Side as a world-class economic and cultural hub."

Obama posted a video to Twitter Wednesday saying their "hope is that the center will breathe new life into historic Jackson Park while delivering jobs, growth and much more to the South Side."

In the social media video, Obama explained why he and Michelle chose to build the center in Chicago, naming his connections to the city.

"From the beginning, Michelle and I knew there was only one place for the Obama Presidential Center: the South Side of Chicago," Obama said in the video. "It's where I met Michelle. Just a couple of miles from where she grew up."

Obama added that after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Chicago's South and West Sides, he said the center will bring jobs and economic opportunity.

The presidential center will put walking trails, playgrounds and bike paths in Chicago's Jackson Park neighborhood, Obama said.

"We know that by working together, we can unlock the South Side's fullest potential and help set up our city, our country and our world for even better years still to come," Obama said in the video.

The Chicago Department of Transportation announced a series of transportation adjustments as the center is being built to account for increased "green space," ensure pedestrian safety and improve traffic.

The following roadway segments will be converted into parkland:

  • Cornell Drive between North Midway Plaisance and Hayes Drive 
  • South Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive 
  • Marquette Drive between Stony Island Avenue and Richards Drive 
  • Northbound Cornell Drive from 68th Street to where Cornell Drive becomes two-way

CDOT plans to add several other renovations, such as extra lanes, additional underpasses and more traffic signals, a release said. However, city officials added that traffic around the park will remain generally unchanged even with the adjustments.

The Obama Foundation donated up to $3.5 million to the Chicago Park District for the construction of an artificial turf field, according to a release. The track and field are set to open this summer.

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