Chicago Crusader staff report
On the east side is a lush boat harbor and the sprawling Museum of Science and Industry. On the west side is a YMCA and a poorer neighborhood where Blacks have struggled for decades. In the middle of Jackson Park will be the new Obama Presidential Library and no one could be happier than members of the Apostolic Church of God, a large congregation in Woodlawn that had been praying for the facility to be built in the neighborhood.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday, July 28 announced the site as the choice for the new facility. The move ended a yearlong debate on where the library should be built. The Barack Obama Foundation is expected to make an official announcement next week.
The leadership at Apostolic Church of God had hoped the library would come to the Woodlawn neighborhood. In 2015, the church encouraged its members to attend several hearings hosted by the Chicago Park District at Hyde Park High School.
“The Obama Presidential Library on Chicago’s South Side offers a rare chance to reinvigorate the economy of nearby communities and make improvements for the area’s infrastructure and parks,” the church said on its Facebook page. “The presidential library will create a global destination for learning and engagement.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly praised the move.
“I’m thrilled that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have selected Jackson Park as the site for the Presidential library and museum,” Kelly said. “The decision clearly demonstrates that the President has not forgotten his political roots on Chicago’s South Side and that his passion for building strong communities will continue to play a central role after his presidency. The Obama Presidential Center, together with the Pullman National Monument, established by the President last year, will help transform the South Side and a significant portion of my congressional district.”
Since the Barack Obama Foundation picked Chicago as the choice for the $100 million library, officials debated whether to build it in Washington Park or Jackson Park. Initially, Washington Park was a heavy favorite because it was closer to the University of Chicago and would be a much-needed boost to the economically depressed neighborhood that surrounds the school. With the DuSable Museum of African American History and the university’s tense relationship with the Washington Park neighborhood, some believe Jackson Park was the best choice and that it was also the safest.
Jackson Park borders the University of Chicago on the east. Located in Woodlawn, the park is 542 acres and is part of the Chicago Park District. The park was the site of the Chicago World Fair in 1893. During summer weekends, Blacks host barbeques and picnics at Jackson Park. In addition to basketball and tennis courts, Jackson Park has a Wooded Island that includes the Japanese styled Osaka Garden. The park also offers three harbors, and the popular 63rd St. Beach.
The presidential library is expected to be completed by 2021. It’s not clear when construction will begin on the project.
On the west side of Jackson Park, questions remain how the Library would rejuvenate the area. The 83-year-old Museum of Science and Industry is the main tourist attraction in the area, but its success has not benefitted the west side of Jackson Park.
There are also concern how construction of the massive project may affect existing businesses, organizations and homes that dot Stony Island.
Last month, the Barack Obama Foundation announced that Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects had been chosen to lead the project.