Judge launches latest lawsuit challenging construction of Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park

CHICAGO (SCS) — A federal judge has dismissed the latest attempt to block construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

Protect Our Parks filed a second lawsuit last year to try to stop construction of the presidential center in historic Jackson Park, arguing that federal review of the environmental impact of the project at the site, which has lasted for years, was defective.

They also argued that state and federal regulators should have considered sites other than Jackson Park, which they said would have been “significantly less harmful to protected resources.”

But U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey ruled Tuesday that the city “has not abdicated control or ownership” of the Obama Center site, and that presidential centers provide clear public benefits, including “deepening human knowledge and understanding, educating and inspiring the public, and expanding recreational and cultural resources and opportunities.

An earlier federal lawsuit by Protect the Parks was dismissed in 2019, and a federal appeals court upheld that decision in 2020. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear the case.

Construction of the Obama Presidential Center began last summer and is expected to be completed in 2020.

The Obama Foundation has estimated that the center will cost about $500 million. Once built, the city would own the campus, but the center would pay for its upkeep. The Obama Presidential Center will be privately funded, and the foundation will pay the city $10 to lease the land for 99 years.

The center will include a 235-foot stone tower housing the site museum; a branch of the Chicago Public Library; a multipurpose space above the museum, program, activity and sports center for community programs and events; a large lawn for social gatherings, barbecues, a nature center; and new walking and cycling trails; a children’s play area; and a fruit and vegetable garden and a teaching kitchen.

The center will not include an official presidential library operated by the National Archives and Records Administration. Instead, Obama’s collection of presidential documents and artifacts will be stored in existing NARA facilities, and unclassified documents will be available online.

The project will also include closing several roads in Jackson Park and replacing them with new green spaces, while widening or reconfiguring other streets in surrounding neighborhoods to handle increased traffic and improve access in and around of Jackson Park.

The 174 million dollars of road works will be financed by the State.


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