Jackson Park Watch Update – August 18, 2017


RECENT TOP NEWS: At a meeting on Tuesday evening 8/15, it was revealed that the Obama Foundation has now decided to fund and construct its wished-for underground parking garage between the Metra and Stony Island and the two arms of the Midway. More about that meeting below.

In this Issue: All About Meetings – and they matter! Numbers are counted, comments are tallied.

Concerned about those proposals to close Cornell Drive, “improve” Lake Shore Drive and Hayes, and take out Marquette? The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is hosting two identical open-house charette-type meetings to “present potential transportation investments to mitigate the impact of proposed closures.”

Date:   Wednesday, August 23, and Thursday, August 24
Time: 4 – 8 pm, both days (an hour is probably ample time)
Location: South Shore Cultural Center

Expect to see numerous depictions and images. Things to look for include:

  • information on the costs of these changes and who will pay;
  • information on the timelines for phasing in these changes so as to avoid traffic chaos;
  • details on any widening of Lake Shore Drive or Hayes and any impact on the recent US Army Corps GLFER plantings;
  • details about any changes to Stony Island Avenue;
  • provisions for parking to accommodate OPC visitors (but remember that the Obama Foundation has now said it plans on funding and building an underground parking garage on the east end of the Midway);
  • information on the impact of these changes on park spaces and recreational facilities       and on mature trees and other plantings.

What you can do: Be there! There will be opportunities to make comments, both verbally and in writing. Be sure to do so.


At last, some information about the Darrow Bridge reconstruction! CDOT , in cooperation with Alderman Leslie Hairston, is also hosting a meeting next week about the Darrow Bridge reconstruction project (known to CDOT as the Columbia Bridge). It will also have a charette-type format with concept drawings, maps, and aerial photography. CDOT staff will answer questions, discuss plans and take comments. Information about the construction schedule will be available.

Date:   Tuesday, August 22
Time: 5-7 pm
Location: Jackson Park Field House, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.

What you can do: Again, be there. Ask questions.


In other meeting news, on August 15 the Obama Foundation hosted an invitation-only “Landscape Design Forum” for community members and representatives of a variety of organizations and interests. JPW was there for what turned out to be a lively discussion with lots of questions and alternate proposals. The design presented was a slightly modified version of first unveiled on May 3 and shown in subsequent “Community Conversations” meetings.

As noted above, the major new piece of information was the revelation that the Obama Foundation would itself build an underground parking garage on the Midway Plaisance, with a projected capacity of 400-450 cars and a landscaped roof. Other discussion topics and themes following the design presentation included:

  • Traffic congestion and noise, with concerns especially by those living adjacent to the OPC site.
  • The integration of the OPC campus into the Park, with repeated requests that attention be paid to the special status of the natural areas of the Wooded Island and its lagoons , which are respites for residents and migratory birds. (The designers confirmed that the plan would remove most of the trees currently on the site, while saying that more trees would be planted.)
  • Discussions of activity areas on the campus, such as a children’s playlot. Many urged that they be natural rather than traditional, quiet rather than loud.
  • Many spoke against the loss of the perennial garden that anchors the connection between Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, which was lauded as an iconic feature and part of the cultural fabric of the neighborhood.
  • Many called for clarification of how the proposed athletic center relates to and integrates with the adjacent Jackson Park Fieldhouse and the Southside Y.
  • Note was taken of the expanding footprint of the OPC campus, now to include not only the perennial garden site but also the end of the Midway Plaisance. Obama Foundation Vice President for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis said that the spatial shifts reflected in the design would have to be approved by the City.

What you can do: Share your comments and questions with Michael Strautmanis, VC for Civic Engagement, at mstrautmanis@obamapresidentialfoundation.org.   Ask him when the Obama Foundation will have public meetings.


Finally, a meeting of a very different sort: The Obama Library Community Benefits Agreement Coalition hosted a “Sustainability & Transportation Forum” 8/16 with over 100 in attendance. A number of community leaders spoke about issues related to plans for Jackson Park, the impact of the Obama Presidential Center on the surrounding communities, and the need for and feasibility of a Community Benefits Agreement. Participants broke into groups to identify key questions about Parks, Green Jobs and Building, and Transportation, plans that will be conveyed to the Mayor’s Office. One interesting note: Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp attended, telling JPW’s Margaret Schmid that “a lot of people care very passionately about these issues.”

What you can do: For more information and/or to become a supporter, visit http://www.obamacba.org/


As always, please feel free to share this Update widely and to post it on google groups, e-lists, or other shared sites.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid, Jackson Park Watch co-coordinators

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