|Barack Obama Presidential Center|
Logo of the Obama Foundation, the non-profit organization that is overseeing the construction of the Barack Obama Presidential Center
|Location||Jackson Park, Chicago, Illinois|
|Named for||Barack Obama|
|Cost||$500 million (estimated)|
|Management||David Simas, CEO|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, and Interactive Design Architects:|
Landscape architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Site Design Group, and Living Habitats
The Barack Obama Presidential Center is the planned presidential center of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. It will be located in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago, near the University of Chicago campus. The university provides planning, support, engagement and programming. Included within the center's plans is a new branch for the Chicago Public Library. The nonprofit Obama Foundation will oversee the center's creation and its campus' construction, and partner with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to digitize the presidency records. In August 2018, the Chicago Park District began related construction which it suspended in September. The District stated that construction will not restart before a dialogue with federal agencies confirms that work is appropriate.
Board and staff
The Obama Foundation board includes Chairman Marty Nesbitt, a close friend from Chicago; J. Kevin Poorman, president and CEO of PSP Capital Partners; David Plouffe; Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng; venture capital financier, John Doerr; Studio Museum in Harlem Director and Chief Curator, Thelma Golden; fundraiser and former White House staffer, Juliana Smoot; investment managers John Rogers, and Michael Sacks, and former Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. Barack Obama has a home in Hyde Park.[a] The foundation was formally established in January 2014.
Louise Bernard, outgoing Director of Exhibitions at NYPL, was named director of the Museum of the Obama Presidential Center in May 2017. Michael Strautmanis became the vice-president of civic engagement for the foundation in 2016.
In 2014 the library released details for institutions interested in being the location of the library.
The library ultimately received bids from four institutions:
- Columbia University (New York City)
- University of Chicago (Chicago)
- University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago)
- University of Hawaii (Honolulu)
In May 2015 the library's board announced it had decided to build the library in partnership with the University of Chicago.
After the library's board had selected to build the library in partnership with the University of Chicago they began deciding between two possible locations, Washington Park and Jackson Park. They ultimately selected Jackson Park.
In 2018, the Obama Foundation released the proposed bid by the University of Chicago, and the three other universities. The 2014 bid revealed that the University of Chicago included various plans, such as combining the golf courses at South Shore and Jackson Park into a single “world class facility,” and the closing of Cornell Drive and other streets in the vicinity of Jackson Park in order to improve the connecting green space for museums located in a nearby area known as "Museum Campus South".
Planning and design
The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Hawaii, and Columbia University submitted proposals to host the institution. In May 2015, the Barack Obama Foundation and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the foundation and the Barack Obama Presidential Center would be located in Chicago's South Side, and would be built in partnership with the University of Chicago.
A design advisory committee assisted in the selection of the architects. Members of the committee included sculptor Don Gummer (the husband of actress Meryl Streep); Ed Schlossberg of ESI Design (husband of Caroline Kennedy, the former U.S. ambassador to Japan); Fred Eychaner, a Chicago radio station owner and Democratic financier; and Architectural Digest magazine editor Margaret Russell. Seven architectural firms were announced as finalists in December 2015 from an initial list of 140 applicants: John Ronan Architects, Adjaye Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, SHoP Architects, Snøhetta, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.
In June 2016, the foundation chose New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Chicago-based Interactive Design Architects to jointly lead the design and engineering of the center. For the exhibition design, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, which worked on the National Museum of African American History, will lead a team including Civic Projects, Normal, and several local artists. The landscape architect is Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, with Site Design Group, and Living Habitats. Lakeside Alliance, which includes Turner Construction and a consortium of local African-American owned firms: Powers & Sons Construction, UJAMAA Construction, Brown & Momen, and Safeway Construction, will build the library.
Two parks near the University of Chicago's campus, Jackson Park and Washington Park, were considered. On July 29, 2016, the foundation announced the selection of portion of Jackson Park in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Jackson Park, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, already houses the Museum of Science and Industry and a golf course.
Preliminary plans were unveiled in May 2017, involving three buildings in geometric shapes covered in light-colored stone, roughly 200,000 to 225,000 square feet (18,600 to 20,900 m2). The museum building (which will also include educational and meeting space) will be the tallest at 180 ft (55 m). The other buildings, a library building and a forum building, will be a single story. The latter building will feature an auditorium, restaurant, and a public garden. The library will be "the first completely digital presidential library in the country, with no paper records stored on site"—papers will be stored at a separate National Archives and Records Administration facility. In 2018, the center announced an agreement to place a Chicago Public Library branch within the complex.
The unveiled plan incorporates the Jackson Park end of Midway Plaisance from the north (which would be readapted as a circular greenspace surrounding a water basin), and the entirety of the park's hockey field and adjoining parkland to the south, where the main buildings and new park landscaping are to be sited. As part of a wider plan to reclaim parkland and improve park safety, the project also necessitates the closure of South Cornell Drive between 60th and 67th Streets, a 6-lane thoroughfare that runs along the western park lagoon and the park's golf course from Midway Plaisance to South Shore. Without improvements to other roadways that will accommodate local traffic, these closures will result in nine intersections in the area to operate over capacity causing substantial traffic delays. These infrastructure changes would not be paid for by the Obama Foundation, and would require government funding, expected to cost the city $175 million.
The selection of the South Side has broad local support for reasons of civic pride as well as of the economic development it would bring in the form of jobs and development. The nonprofit group Friends of the Parks opposes the loss of parkland to build the center and had threatened a lawsuit to block development. In May 2018, the preservationist group "Protect Our Parks" filed a lawsuit, to prevent the part of Jackson Park, which dates from 1893, from being taken from the public and given to a private entity. Mayor Emanuel was critical of the lawsuit. Later that month, the plan to build the center was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission.
The Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, a coalition of 19 community and activist groups, is seeking a community benefits agreement to require that the Obama Foundation, in partnership with the City of Chicago, sets aside jobs for residents in the local communities, protect low-income housing and home owners, support and create Black businesses, and strengthen neighborhood schools. Some residents have concerns about rising property taxes and rents that could displace many of the low-income Black residents. Recent rent increases for residents living directly across from the library site escalated concerns of displacement of residents, particularly those who have fixed incomes, and has drawn protests against local Aldermen who are in opposition of a community benefits agreement. As of 2018, the Obama Foundation has so far refused to consider a community benefits agreement. In July 2019, local aldermen Jeanette Taylor and Leslie Hairston introduced an ordinance aimed at protecting affordable housing near the development. The ordinance would require 30% of new units built in a 2 mile radius of the development to be affordable and offer right of first refusal for nearby tenants, among other benefits.
Some faculty members signed a letter stating concerns about the design, raised questions about the estimated cost of transportation improvements, and stated that the plan is an "object-lesson in the mistakes of the past". A counter-letter in support of the Obama Center was signed by other University of Chicago faculty in response. The independent campus student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon wrote an editorial in support of the library that criticized the concerns raised by some faculty.
The foundation has announced plans for community hiring. An economic impact assessment estimates that about 28% of the 4,945 short-term construction jobs would go to South Side residents, with the remainder to the rest of Cook County. About 2,175 of the 2,536 long-term jobs would to go South Side residents, with the remainder to residents in rest of Cook County. It is estimated that the long-term jobs will bring in about $104 million in annual income to Cook County residents, or about $41,000 per job. Some local community residents are concerned about the percentage of new jobs going to residents living in the neighborhoods directly surrounding the center. The Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement Coalition has asked that a majority of the jobs go to residents in the surrounding neighbors, that the jobs pay a living wage, and that jobs are set aside for hard-to-employ populations.
Construction and fundraising
Construction of the center was originally expected to begin in late 2018 and be completed in 2020 or 2021. A federal review of the project began in late 2017, responding to the local criticism and attempting to assess whether the project affects Jackson Park's status on the National Register of Historic Places. This review will likely determine the start date of construction if the plan is approved. The architects said in February 2017 that construction of the center's museum and library would likely approach $300 million, and that the Center would likely need an endowment of $1.5 billion. In 2017, Obama reportedly was set to engage in a major fundraising effort for the Center. On July 27, 2018, the Obama Foundation announced that groundbreaking for the Center would be delayed until sometime in 2019, and the center would not open in 2021, as was initially planned.
The Foundation's 2017 annual report, and its 2017 IRS filing, show that the Obama Foundation raised $232.6 million, on expenses of $23 million. The year after Obama left office was the first year the Foundation lifted a cap on donations. While it lists its donors on its website, it no longer specifically links donors to exact amounts. The Foundation's executive director, Robbin Cohen, earned more than $862,000 in salary and bonuses in 2017. While the Chicago city government has not promised that the Foundation's endowment details will be disclosed publicly, its agreement with the Foundation requires that the Foundation may not proceed with construction of the Center until the building endowment is secured.
In early August 2018, the Chicago Park District began cutting trees to relocate park facilities, with the most notable being the Jackson Park athletic field. On September 17, 2018, the Chicago Park District suspended its construction related to the Center following meetings with the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration. On September 18, 2018, it was announced that the Center will be owned by the city of Chicago once completed and that the Obama Foundation will not receive the tax-based operating or capital support, nor the perpetual leases which the 11 other museums in the city parks obtain.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted two ordinances to the Chicago City Council on September 20: the first would grant the Obama Foundation a 99-year lease on the Jackson Park site for $10.00 with various restrictions on the Foundation's use, in return for the Foundation's financial responsibility for maintaining and operating the city-owned project; the second allows the city to plow under Cornell Drive from 59th Street to Hayes Drive in order to reconfigure this area as green space. The Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) ordinance amends a 2015 agreement with the park district concerning the Obama Presidential Center. Under the new ordinance, the Presidential Center will comply with the Museum Act's free admission days requirements. Parking fees for the Center will also be regulated so they are consistent with the rates charged at the Museum of Science and Industry or in the North Garage adjacent to the Field Museum. The ordinance will also ensure that these parking fees may solely be used to finance the Center's operations, maintenance, management, and endowment funding. On October 31, 2018, the Chicago city council unanimously approved the new proposals for the Obama Presidential Center. Mayor Emanuel afterwards read a letter of thanks written by former President Obama.
On October 24, 2018, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey held a status conference in the lawsuit filed by the group Protect Our Parks to prevent construction in Jackson Park. Blakey indicated that both sides want a quick resolution and the court will not delay the lawsuit. The city informed the court that they intend to seek a motion to dismiss after action by the City Council. Discovery continued during the next few months. On November 23, 2018, a motion was filed by the city of Chicago to dismiss the Protect Our Parks lawsuit. This request was denied on February 19, 2019 by Judge Blakey. While it did not guarantee the challenge would ultimately win in court, the ruling allowed the lawsuit to proceed. On June 11, 2019, Judge Blakey ruled on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgement and granted judgement in favor of the City and against Protect our Parks, dismissing the lawsuit to block construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
On February 26, 2019, residents in nearby areas voted in a non-binding referendum to require the Center to take part in a community benefits agreement, something which the former President and the Obama Foundation have objected to. On June 3, 2019, it was announced that a $5 million grant had been issued to the city of Chicago by The MacArthur Foundation for plans to build the new Chicago Public Library branch at the site of the proposed Obama Presidential Center. If the groundbreaking for construction of the Obama Presidential Center does occur, it will not be until at least late 2020.
Obama presidential documents and artifacts
The papers and artifacts from the Obama administration are being stored and processed inside a facility in suburban Hoffman Estates, northwest of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The records are to be digitized and stored in existing NARA facilities. By law, they are not subject to any Freedom of Information Act requests until 2022.
- "I spent almost 30 years in Chicago. It's where Michelle, where she grew up, where our daughters were born," he said. "Hawaii is home to me," the president said, but he considered Chicago his real home.
- Eilperin, Juliet (December 19, 2016). "White House political director David Simas joins Obama Foundation as CEO". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
- "The Obama Presidential Center". Barack Obama Foundation.org. Archived from the original on May 14, 2015. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
- "Obama Foundation Announces Jackson Park as Site of the Obama Presidential Center" (Press release). Obama.org. July 29, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- "FAQ on Obama Presidential Library". UChicago News. January 31, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- Bowean, Lolly (May 2, 2018). "Obama Foundation announces new public library branch". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
- "National Archives Announces a New Model for the Preservation and Accessibility of Presidential Records". National Archives. May 3, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
- Kamin, Blair; Skiba, Katherine; Caputo, Angela (May 12, 2017). "Obama Presidential Center breaks from National Archives model". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
- Blasuis, Elizabeth (September 18, 2018). "Chicago Park District pauses Obama Presidential Center construction". The Architect's Newspaper. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
- Tarmy, James (March 19, 2018). "Thelma Golden Knows That Showing Great Art Means Nurturing New Artists". Bloomberg News. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
- Jackson, David (January 31, 2014). "Obama library foundation is formed". USA Today.
- "About the Foundation". Barack Obama Foundation.
- Gima, Craig (March 3, 2016). "Obama: 'Hawaii is home,' but he probably won't live here". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- "Obamas likely to stay in DC for a few years". Reuters interview (rough cut with no reporter narration). March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- Supporters Establish the Obama Foundation to Oversee Planning for Future Presidential Library, Barack Obama Foundation (January 31, 2014).
- Skiba, Katherine; Pashman, Manya Brachear (May 31, 2017). "Louise Bernard named museum director for future Obama Presidential Center". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- "The Barack Obama Foundation Announces Hire of Michael Strautmanis as Vice President of Civic Engagement". Obama Foundation (Press release). November 23, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Glanton, Dahleen. "Obama library officials allow parties to make their bid". chicagotribune.com.
- "Hawaii As 'Racial Paradise'? Bid For Obama Library Invokes A Complex Past". NPR.org.
- Bosman, Julie; Smith, Mitch (May 12, 2015). "Chicago Wins Bid to Host Obama Library" – via NYTimes.com.
- Skiba, Kathy Bergen, Blair Kamin, Katherine. "Obama chooses historic Jackson Park as library site". chicagotribune.com.
- Buckley, Blair Kamin, Madeline. "Ahead of court hearing, Obama Foundation reveals closely guarded design plans".
- "Obama Foundation under pressure from lawsuit, releases secret U. of C. bid".
- "Michelle Obama to pick Obama library location: report". WGN-TV News. February 5, 2015. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- "Obama Foundation Issues RFP to Four Potential Hosts of Future Presidential Library". Barack Obama Foundation. September 15, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Bosman, Julie; Smith, Mitch (May 12, 2015). "Chicago Wins Bid to Host Obama Library". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Blair, Kamin (January 13, 2016). "Husbands of Streep and Kennedy advising on Obama Center architect". Chicago Tribune.
- Sweet, Lynn (December 21, 2015). "Seven firms make cut to design Obama Center in Chicago". Chicago Sun Times.
- "Obamas choose New York architects to design Chicago library and museum". Chicago Tribune. June 30, 2016.
- "The Obama Foundation Announces Architect Selection for Future Presidential Center". The Obama Foundation. June 30, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
- Obama Foundation exhibition designers Chicago Tribune
- Tan, Yao Xen (February 6, 2017). "Obama Foundation Chooses Landscape Architects for Presidential Library". www.chicagomaroon.com.
- "Obama Foundation Announces Lakeside Alliance as Construction Manager for Obama Presidential Center - Obama Foundation". Obama Foundation. January 5, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- Skiba, Katherine. Obama Foundation makes it official: Presidential library will go up in Jackson Park, Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2016.
- Caputo, Angela; Skiba, Katherine; Kamin, Blair (May 4, 2017). "Obamas unveil design of presidential center in Chicago". Chicago Tribune.
- "OPC Mobility Improvements to Support the SLFP" (PDF).
- Bowean, Lolly (July 27, 2018). "Obama Foundation delays presidential center groundbreaking until next year". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
the city is expected to make about $175 million in improvements
- Briscoe, Tony (May 15, 2018). "Federal lawsuit accuses Obama center organizers of pulling an 'institutional bait and switch'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
Protect Our Parks Inc. also claims in its lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday, that the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago don't have the authority to transfer public parkland to nongovernmental entity such as the Obama Foundation.
- Byrne, John (May 15, 2018). "Emanuel says group that sued Obama center organizers doesn't 'understand the 21st century'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
- Bradley, Tahman (May 17, 2018). "Obama Presidential Center approved by Chicago plan commission". WGN News. Chicago. Associated Press. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
- "Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the Obama Library". Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the Obama Library.
- Kamin, Blair (March 3, 2018). "The Dilemma of Development: Will Obama Center hurt those it's supposed to help?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
- Chen, Elaine (March 29, 2018). "CBA Coalition Protests Rent Increase, Hairston Warns It Not To "Deceive the Public"". The Chicago Maroon. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
- Isaacs, Deanna (February 28, 2018). "Obama: No Community Benefits Agreement". Chicago Reader. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
- Bowean, Lolly; Byrne, John (July 23, 2019). "Chicago aldermen to introduce plan aimed at protecting affordable housing around planned Obama Presidential Center site". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- Van Voorhis, Drew (January 29, 2018). "UChicago faculty denounce plans for Obama Presidential Center: 'object-lesson in the mistakes of the past'". The College Fix. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "News". Chicago Maroon. February 9, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
- Editorial Board (January 23, 2018). "Don't Relocate, Advocate". The Chicago Maroon. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
- "Obama Foundation Issues Request for Diversity Consultant for the Obama Presidential Center" (Press release). Obama Foundation. September 29, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- "OPC Economic Impact" (PDF). Obama Foundation.
- "Principles". Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the Obama Library. September 29, 2016.
- Sweet, Lynn. "Feds launch review of Obama Presidential Center impact on Jackson Park", Chicago Sun-Times, November 26, 2017.
- Freund, Sara. "Obama Center scraps above-ground parking garage after neighborhood opposition", Chicago Curbed, January 9, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Obama's Library Architects Say Project May Need $1.5 Billion: Report, WMAQ-TV News, February 20, 2017.
- Bowean, Lolly (July 27, 2018). "Obama Foundation delays presidential center groundbreaking until next year". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
- Sweet, Lynn (September 25, 2018). "Fundraising bonanza fuels Obama Foundation, top staffer earns whopping $862K". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
- Sweet, Lynn (August 6, 2018). "Jackson Park trees cut down near Obama Center site despite lawsuit, promises". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
The city and Chicago Park District are cutting down trees in Jackson Park – in a project related to the Obama Presidential Center – despite a pending lawsuit, city and federal approvals still needed and a pledge from the Obama Foundation CEO to keep trees intact until the permitting process is complete.
- Bowean, Lolly (August 7, 2018). "Work begins to relocate track in Jackson Park to make way for Obama center". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- Bowean, Lolly (September 18, 2018). "New legislation outlines terms of Obama center's use of Jackson Park". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
- "City of Chicago : Mayor Emanuel, City Departments Introduce Two Ordinances To City Council". www.cityofchicago.org. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
- Sweet, Lynn. "City Hall deal for Obama Center in Jackson Park: 99 years for $10". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
- "Chicago Hispanic Newspaper, Lawndale News, Hispanic Bilingual Newspapers, Su Noticiero Bilingue » Obama Presidential Center Enters Next Phase".
- "City Council Committee approves $10, 99-year deal for Obama Center".
- "City Council unanimously approves Obama Presidential Center —��for the third time".
- Bowean, Lolly. "City Council unanimously approves use agreement for Obama Presidential Center".
- "48 - 0: City Council votes in favor Obama Presidential center". October 31, 2018.
- "Trial Date In Case Over Obama Center To Be Set In December". October 24, 2018.
- Coen, Jeff. "Judge says he won't let suit against Obama Presidential Center drag on".
- "Chicago defends location of Obama library in federal court". www.yahoo.com.
- "City Defends Location of Obama Library in Federal Court". NBC Chicago.
- Koziarz, Jay (February 19, 2019). "Judge upholds lawsuit against Obama Center". Curbed Chicago.
- "Judge OKs Suit Aimed at Halting Obama Library in Chicago".
- Lolly Bowean (June 11, 2019). "Federal judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to block Obama center construction in Chicago's Jackson Park". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
- Lisa Bertagnoli (June 11, 2019). "Judge tosses Obama Center legal challenge". Crain's Chicago Business.
- "Judge Rules for City in Lawsuit Over Obama Center". NBC Chicago. June 11, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
- Hinton, Rachel (March 1, 2019). "A rare election-night loss for Obama: Voters back benefits pact for presidential center". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "About Us". Barack Obama Presidential Library. Retrieved September 22, 2018.