digitaledition.Chicago Tribune – Obama library design remains a mystery

Barack Obama is building his presidential library on Chicago’s South Side, in Chicago’s Jackson Park and next to Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Chicago residents will weigh in on it, Chicago aldermen will vote whether to approve it and Chicago benefactors will be asked to open their wallets to support it.

So it would be reasonable to think that the first hints about the project’s design would be dropped somewhere in Chicago…..


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ChiCago Tribune – Alderman calls for more transparency on Obama Library planning

The Obama Foundation, the not-for-profit developing the first African-American president’s library and museum in Jackson Park, was criticized by a local alderman Monday for not sharing enough information on how South Side residents will benefit from the high-profile project.

“My primary concern is how the Obama Foundation plans to engage the community….

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Greetings all,

This is a crazy time. JPW coordinators share the angst, but we are keeping on.  You can help by submitting comments or questions to both the Park District and the Obama Foundation – see *** below.

Now: the road closure proposal

Proposals to slice and dice Jackson Park into disjointed pieces keep coming fast and furious! The latest is the Obama Foundation idea – just recently “floated” although it has been out there for several years – of closing Cornell Drive between 60th and 67th (see Again we see a proposal put out there by one special interest without full information or attention to park-wide traffic circulation issues, a proposal that raises a host of questions:

  • While many would love to see more parkland, just what would happen to all that traffic?
  • How about a traffic study that is publicly released? (JPW knows that a study was done by the University and given to the Obama Foundation a couple of years ago, but has been unable to secure a copy.)
  • What would it cost us, the taxpayers?
  • Where is the plan for community input?
  • Where is the comprehensive plan for Jackson Park as a whole that is necessary to put such a proposal into perspective and context?

In today’s DNAInfo (see link below), Alderman Leslie Hairston expressed major concerns about the impact of the proposed road closure on traffic through Jackson Park. Even more importantly, to quote the article:

Hairston has expressed concerns in the past that the large number of projects planned for Jackson Park are too siloed and progressing without enough attention on how they will all interact with each other. “I would like to look at the totality,” Hairston said.

As calls for an overall plan for the whole of Jackson Park gain traction, this is great news. Please take time to thank Hairston at

Meeting with the Obama Foundation

JPW coordinators Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid recently met with Obama Foundation V.P. for civic engagement Michael Strautmanis and posed questions about the road closure idea. They also urged the Obama Foundation leadership to:

  • launch a community engagement process to review and comment on plans for the Obama Library building(s) and landscaping while they are being developed, not after,
  • take an active and public role in the search for a suitable new location for the athletic field that it is displacing, and
  • work with the Park District on an overall plan for the entire park before it is hopelessly segmented.

In response, Strautmanis stated that the Obama Foundation will move quickly to hold public discussions with community groups about the development of the designs for the Obama Presidential Center with the goal of having final designs by the end of 2017. However, he could not yet announce a specific schedule of meetings or the groups to be invited. Strautmanis also expressed the Foundation’s strong interest in and commitment to working with the Park District and the community to develop a comprehensive plan for Jackson Park that would both preserve and enhance the park for local users and accommodate visitors to the Obama Presidential Center.

***Strautmanis also emphasized that the Obama Foundation is seeking comments on what it should do as it launches a program focused on citizenship. One obvious answer is to begin by working at the local level. JPW encourages submission of comments encouraging the Obama Foundation to be a model of community engagement by working with the Park District – and pushing it if needed – to ensure substantive community input on all of the many plans now afloat to make massive changes in historic Jackson Park. Comments (and questions) can be submitted at

More on the golf course

As the SmithGroupJJR engineering study of the South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses proceeds, more intriguing details surface. For example, costs: in a recent article (, it was estimated that the underpass at 67th and South Shore Drive could cost at least $11m. Where is that money coming from?

More information on the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance is essential. JPW coordinators Nelms and Schmid will shortly meet with Brian Hogan, one of the members of the CPGA board of directors and its publicist, and will share what they learn.

On the positive side, Alderman Leslie Hairston has invited Jackson Park Watch to participate in the golf course advisory group she is setting up. Brenda Nelms will be representing JPW and keeping us informed.

***Also on the mildly positive side: In addition to the initial Q&A that it prepared in mid-January, the Park District has now posted on its website homepage a button for submitting “comments, concerns, or questions” about the golf course proposal ( – scroll down and look on the left hand side). JPW has asked whether the comments will be answered privately or made public, and has not received any answer to date. Nonetheless, JPW encourages everyone to submit comments and questions as events warrant.

Speaking of comments:

We know that some people encountered difficulties utilizing the link to the Friends of the Parks survey form in a recent JPW Update. If you haven’t been able to fill out their survey, we encourage you to try again here (

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators, Jackson Park Watch
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