Jackson Park Watch Update – February 18, 2018

Greetings all!

NEW!   The Jackson Park Watch website has been newly updated.  Check out the all-new Obama Center page and the updated Golf Course page to get the latest information and community perspectives at www.jacksonparkwatch.org .  Share the link with interested friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

Another public meeting

The Obama Foundation, with assistance from the Park District and CDOT,  has announced a public meeting on Tuesday, February 27 – only its second in 9 months.  The meeting will be at McCormick Place starting at 5 p.m.  While it is billed as an opportunity “to receive feedback on its zoning application and the Obama Presidential Center design,” JPW wonders whether the meeting will also include a marching band or celebrity appearances, as was the case at the Obama Foundation’s only other public meeting back in September.  JPW also wonders whether the promised breakout sessions on topics such as site design, economic impact, and CDOT’s proposed road changes will allow for substantive dialogue, or instead, as has been the case, will feature poster boards with limited chances for two-way discussion.

The meeting is to be held in the Grand Ballroom of the South Building of McCormick Place, which faces on King Drive and is located just south of (and connected to) the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel.  Entrance is through Gate 4.   We encourage community members to attend with questions and concerns but limited expectations for actual input.

Park District and CDOT forge ahead to close Cornell Drive

Without waiting for public feedback on February 27, or for review by the Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council, or for finalization of its much-touted South Lakefront Framework Plan, or for the results of the current federal reviews that will conclude in the Fall,  the Chicago Park District’s Board of Commissions last Wednesday – unanimously and without any discussion – authorized Park District CEO Mike Kelly to take steps that would enable the implementation of CDOT’s so-far unvetted plans for radical road changes in Jackson Park.

It was perhaps only a coincidence that the Board’s action took place at a sparsely attended meeting held far away from the Park District’s downtown headquarters, or that the documents discussed at the meeting were not available to the public at the meeting or on the Park District website, but the Sun-Times turned its spotlight on the vote and its implications.  The land swap authorized between the Park District and CDOT does not mean that road construction would start immediately, but it does signal that the powers that be are not looking for community input in spite of public statements by City and Obama Foundation officials.

Note that the Board of Commissioners vote dealt with only a portion of Cornell Drive and other roads within the park; road segments that lie within the current site claimed by the Obama Foundation will require additional steps.


Buried under the heading “Midway Plaisance” in the Chicago Department of Transportation’s application to the Plan Commission for approval to make massive (taxpayer funded) road changes in Jackson Park is this proposal, never before made public:

“North of the Midway Plaisance [on Cornell Drive from 59th north to 57th] a road diet will be implemented with new pavement markings to reduce Cornell Drive to one lane in each direction with a painted median and on-street parking on both sides of the road [emphasis added].  Approximately 70 on-street parking spaces would be added to offset a portion of the 150 spaces lost on Hayes Drive.”

JPAC does it again, sadly

Long time Update readers may recall the controversy two years ago when the Jackson Park Advisory Council endorsed the Project 120 proposal for a pavilion and outdoor music venue without having notified the membership in advance that the issue would be taken up.  At this month’s JPAC meeting, history unfortunately repeated itself.  A report from the JPAC golf committee turned into an endorsement when a motion was made to suspend the rules and proceed to a vote, again disregarding concerns that the membership had not been notified that the issue would come up for a vote.

Events you may want to attend

March 7, 6-8 p.m.

The impact of the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side will be the focus of a public symposium at the University of Chicago featuring national and local experts on Wednesday, March 7.  The event will be 6-8 p.m., in Kent Hall (1020 E. 58th Street).  The symposium is a follow-up to a January 4, 2018 letter signed by 200 members of the University’s faculty expressing strong support for establishing the OPC on the South Side, while raising concerns about the specifics of its plan.  The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

March 10, 8:30 a.m.- 12 noon

Jackson Park Watch’s Margaret Schmid will be a panelist at the Ancona School’s symposium on “Race and Green Space in Chicago” on Saturday morning, March 10.  The event runs from 8:30 a.m. until noon.  Given the concerns about the impact of the major changes proposed for Jackson Park on open green spaces in the park and on recreational opportunities for local uses and local users, the symposium will offer a timely opportunity for discussion and exchange of information.   The Ancona School is at 4770 S. Dorchester.  Registration is encouraged by not required;  Click here to register today.


We continue to seek expert legal and technical counsel as we try to raise key questions and pursue community concerns.  Your check to support this expert assistance can be sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  We thank you!

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

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