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Obama Presidential Library pushed back to 2019

Crusader Staff Report

Construction of the Obama Presidential Center and Library will not begin until 2019, officials from the Obama Foundation said last week. The news comes as activists demand that a community benefits agreement be placed on a referendum for the upcoming Chicago mayoral election.

Monday’s announcement was the second delay for the construction of the library in Jackson Park, which the Sun-Times reported in May, was pushed back to the end of 2018. Now, groundbreaking on the $500 million facility won’t begin until next year. No reason was reported to explain the latest delay.

“We have long said that everything we do in this process will be consistent with our approach to community input and engagement,” a foundation spokesman told the Sun-Times. “We continue to work through the federal review process and to engage with the public on our plans. We are eager to break ground as soon as possible, which we currently expect to occur in 2019.”

The Obama Presidential Center and Library will sit on 20 acres in Jackson Park. It will include a 165,000 square-foot tower that will be 235 feet tall. There will also be a 300-seat auditorium in the forum building and an underground parking garage that will hold 450 cars.

In July, Oprah Winfrey, a friend of the Obamas, gave a $1 million contribution to the facility. So far, the Obama Foundation has reported receiving at least 56 contributions that were at least $1 million or more.

The Chicago City Council in May approved the design for the library, but the plans must still be approved by the federal government because Jackson Park, which hosted the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The federal review will include public hearings on the project to allow residents and groups to voice their concerns about the impact the project will have on their community.

On Friday, July 27 about 400 people, including organizations, packed the South Shore Cultural Center, where a panel discussion was held to reinforce demands for a community benefits agreement to address concerns of gentrification in Jackson Park and South Shore.  The Obama Foundation has plans to use minority subcontractors for the facility, but will not sign a community benefits agreement. Now, activists want the issue of a community benefits agreement to be placed on a referendum for the mayoral election in February 2019.

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