Residents Camp Out for Hours Ahead of Public Meeting for Obama Library

People began lining up more than 24 hours before the first public meeting for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago Thursday.

Several groups hoped to be the first to voice their concerns surrounding the South Side library, many calling for the Obama Foundation to commit to a community benefits agreement.

Supporters say such an agreement would legally bind the foundation, the city and the University of Chicago to deliver on its promises, including those of more jobs, better business, housing and schools.

Others voiced concerns that the new facility could displace long-time residents in the Jackson Park area.

“It is going to bring a lot of great things to the neighborhood, but we want to be there to enjoy these great things," said activist Harnoon Garel. "Prices are already doubling and tripling and skyrocketing because people are anticipating the Obama Library coming to the community.”

The public meeting, scheduled to be held at 5 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, was organized so the Obama Foundation could “receive feedback from the community and local residents on the development and construction of the Obama Presidential Center, as well as on how to support civic leaders making positive change in their communities,” the foundation said.

“We appreciate the feedback we have already received from our neighbors in the South Side and beyond from the City’s public meetings, our smaller group meetings and surveys,” David Simas, chief executive officer at the Obama Foundation, said in a statement. “President and Mrs. Obama are developing the OPC in the South Side to give back to the community that has given so much to them. The Center is designed to unlock the full potential of Jackson Park and help support economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods, in order to fulfill those goals, we believe we must continue to discuss with the community what they want out of the Center in Jackson Park. We look forward to hearing from residents on how the Obama Foundation can be a vital part of this community.”

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