Friends of the Parks Says it Won't Sue Over Obama Library Site

Despite its “dismay” at the use of existing Chicago parkland for President Barack Obama’s presidential library, Friends of the Parks said it will not sue over the building of the new center.

The group, which was behind a lawsuit that ultimately forced George Lucas’ museum out of the city, said the Jackson Park site that was chosen for the future Obama Presidential Center “is not public trust land – unlike the proposed sites for the Lucas Museum.”

“Friends of the Parks’ analysis suggests that there is no realistic legal remedy at this time to protect this public open space from this development,” Executive Director Juanita Irizarry said in a statement.

Concerns about a potential lawsuit first sprouted earlier this year, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested the legal battle over the Lucas Museum could be a preview for the Obama Library.

"In about two months, hopefully, the president of the United States will pick -- because it could have been in New York, Chicago -- and he will either pick Jackson Park or Washington Park for his library," Emanuel said at the time. "Jobs, economic development. Either one of those are Olmsted parks. God willing, there won’t be a lawsuit."

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced last week that they had chosen the city’s historic Jackson Park as the library site, calling it “a community we call home and that means the world to us.”

"With a center in Jackson Park, not only will we be able to affect local change, but we can attract the world to this historic neighborhood, whose rich cultural heritage dates back to the 1893 World’s Fair,” Obama said in a statement. “We are proud that the center will help spur development in an urban area and we can’t wait to forge new ways to give back to the people of Chicago who have given us so much.”

The library will be home to Obama's archives and a museum about his presidency, and is expected to be completed in 2020 or 2021.

Emanuel called the project a "unique opportunity" for Chicago and advocated aggressively for the selection.

The Barack Obama Foundation recently announced that the New York architects behind the nearby University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts would partner with a Chicago firm in designing the center.

“The design of the Obama Library should maximize the use of available vacant land and underground space, and be truly ‘park positive’ by adding parkland to the surrounding community,” said Juanita Irizarry. “Furthermore, any design should upgrade the park’s facilities and preserve existing recreational uses by the public.”

The group said it has worked with Obama in the past and plans to be involved in the design and development of the new library.

“We admire President Obama’s record as a champion of the environment. Friends of the Parks similarly has a deep commitment to the protection and preservation of the public’s use of and access to open space,” Friends of the Parks Board Chair Lauren Moltz said in a statement. “Friends of the Parks looks forward to working with the Foundation, the City, the Chicago Park District and the University of Chicago to protect and promote parkland, public space and public access. We would like to ensure that any impact on historic Jackson Park will be minimal and preserve the integrity of Frederick Law Olmsted’s design.”

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