Jackson Park Watch Update – September 2, 2017

Greetings, all,

In this issue:
· The new Obama Foundation garage
· More on costs
· For lovers of landscape architecture

The New Obama Foundation Garage

On Wednesday, August 23, there was a welcome first bit of information about how the parking needs of the new Obama Presidential Center would be accommodated. The Obama Foundation announced that it would pay for and build a 450-car, two-story, above-ground parking garage on the eastern-most end of Midway Plaisance, on the tract between the Metra tracks and Stony Island Avenue. The garage would have a green roof. The schematic released shows it with sloping sides to the north, east, and south, and, on the west side adjacent to the Metra tracks, with a drive-through for car entrances and exits and for tour bus parking.

This announcement came just two weeks after Obama Foundation staffers told a Midway Plaisance Park Advisory Council meeting that there were no current plans to build such a garage. There had been no consultation with either the Midway Plaisance PAC or any neighborhood residents prior to the announcement. The Obama Foundation decision to build the garage itself came after its preferred approach proved impossible to execute.

The Midway Plaisance is classified as boulevard parkway and is owned by the City/CDOT, though it is managed by the Park District. The City Council would have to approve conveyance of the garage site to the Obama Foundation. This would be in addition to City Council approval of a new footprint for the OPC itself as the design now being proposed by the Foundation has shifted considerably beyond the site originally transferred from the Park District to the City for that purpose.

The parking garage announcement, light in details, has not surprisingly generated a host of questions:
* What would it cost to park there?
* Would it be open to the general public?
* Would it host overnight parking for near neighbors?
* How much extra traffic on the Midway and connecting side streets would result?
* What about the impact of air pollution from vehicles going in and out of the structure?
* Would the tour buses be idling after dropping off passengers at the OPC itself?
* Would this facility ultimately generate pressure to institute permit parking for near neighbors if large numbers of visitors to the OPC seek alternatives to the garage fees?

What you can do: Contact Obama Foundation V.P. for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis (mstrautmanis@obamapresidentialfoundation.org) to ask that the Obama Foundation host a community meeting about its parking garage proposal for all of those residing or working in the near vicinity (57th to 62nd and Stony Island to Dorchester) and other interested community members.

More on the Cost Issue

This question of the cost of the package of proposed changes to Jackson Park has become even more pressing in the light of the recent school funding reform legislation. That legislation directs some much needed funds to the Chicago schools. It also allows the Board of Education appointed by the Mayor to impose a $125 million tax hike on Chicago taxpayers, something it has indicated it would do.

We already know that the total costs of the proposed road changes and other infrastructure work related to the Obama Presidential Center and the proposed PGA golf course would be in the range of $100 million-plus . Yet these proposed expenditures for high-profile projects – some brand new, some long sought – would do nothing to address the long-term and ongoing problem of the Park District’s neglect of basic maintenance needs in Jackson Park and other Southside parks. Bridges are crumbling; bike and pedestrian paths are treacherous; underpasses are regularly flooded and impassable; the Jackson Park fieldhouse, built in 1957, is sub-par. In light of the many financial challenges facing the City, we all should be looking at the needs of Jackson Park comprehensively and planning carefully for repair and renewal of existing infrastructure and facilities as well as for guarantees that new construction projects will be maintained.

What you can do: Voice your views to the Mayor (rahm.emanuel@cityofchicago.org) and to the opinion pages of the Sun-Times (letters@suntimes.com), the Tribune (ctc-Tribletters@chicagotribune.com ), the Hyde Park Herald (letters@hpherald.com, and Crain’s Chicago Business (letters@chicagobusiess.com).

Tid-bit for landscape architecture lovers

Frederick Law Olmsted’s historic landscape architecture is a well-known feature of Jackson Park. Landscape architect buffs may be interested in two free lectures about a noted Chicago landscape architect of the Post-War era, Dan Kiley, on September 11. You can find more information and sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/landscape-architecture-in-chicago-lectures-tickets-36777031090 .

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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