Crusader Staff Report
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is praising a recent decision by federal judge who on a Tuesday, June 11, threw out a lawsuit that aimed to block the Obama Foundation from building the Obama Presidential Center and Library in Jackson Park in South Shore.
In a 52-page ruling, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey wrote that the plaintiff, Protect Our Parks attempted to “twist this public benefit into a private purpose, arguing that the Museum’s mission merely seeks to preserve and enhance the legacy of the former President and his wife.”
In response to the decision, Lightfoot released a statement, praising Blakey’s decision.
“Chicago is where President Obama discovered his love for community service, and the Obama Presidential Center will honor his presidency and inspire the next generation of leaders. The court today made unequivocally clear that this project may be located in Jackson Park, marking a significant step forward in this historic project and for our entire city. I am committed to ensuring that this community hub creates unprecedented cultural opportunities and economic growth on the South Side. I look forward to working with community stakeholders and the Obama Foundation to ensure that neighboring communities share in this growth. Toward that important end, I look forward to meeting with community stakeholders and the Obama Foundation to resolve remaining issues so that the benefits of this important project can be shared by all.”
In 2018, Protect Our Parks filed the lawsuit against the city of Chicago, which struck a 99-year lease agreement that would use public land for the private $500 million project for former President Barack Obama. But Blakey disagreed.
“This case is important, but it is not a difficult case,” Blakey said in his ruling to dismiss it.
Originally planned for Washington Park The Obama Foundation chose Jackson Park in 2015 to serve as the site of the Obama Presidential Center and Library. The facility would also serve as the headquarters of the Obama Foundation, which is now located in Hyde Park. The project will also include a lantern-shaped museum, a public meeting space, an athletic center and a branch of the Chicago Public Library, according to the project website. The facility will not house Obama’s official archived presidential records he accumulated while serving in the White House from 2008 to 2016.
The planned facility has sparked protests with activists and some residents in the neighborhood who in February led voters to approve a community benefits agreement ordinance to allay concerns of rising rents and displacement after the Obama center is built. The move came more than a year after Obama publicly said he doesn’t believe a community benefits agreement is necessary.
The center is estimated to create 200 to 300 jobs, and will generate 1,400 to 1,500 jobs in the construction phase.