Obama Foundation’s second public meeting pitches project
The Obama Foundation’s public meeting on February 27 featured an appearance by former President Obama himself in full campaign mode to promote the transformational impact of the OPC on the South Side. No changes to the Obama Presidential Center or the CDOT road plans were announced, although numerous questions about the road plans were raised in the related breakout session. The Tribune responded with an editorial raising important questions about the seeming absence of practical plans to realize the promised $3 billion in OPC-related growth over the coming decade along with the concern that, like the Museum of Science and Industry, the OPC might have virtually no positive impact on the neighborhood. Tribune critic Blair Kamin followed with a commentary noting two challenges presented by the OPC: balancing the tension between the opportunities for economic development and the dangers of residential displacement, and “the difficult and still-unresolved task of placing the Obama center in the historic landscape of Jackson Park.”
Yes, we know, there have been a lot of meetings. Now the Park District has announced two more – March 13 and 14 – to review the new South Lakefront Plan prior to finalizing it for submission to the Park District Board in April and thereby enshrining plans for the expanded golf course, road changes, and new OPC footprint. We note that those plans have not been approved yet and, in the end, may not be. The meetings will take place at the South Shore Cultural Center, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. both days, with a presentation scheduled for 6:15. We realize the many followers of JPW Updates have been to untold numbers of public meetings, too many of which have resulted in little if any responsive revisions in the plans presented. Nonetheless, we urge you to attend once again and to let your views be known. Absence of public participation can be all to readily construed as public apathy, which is far from the case as regards plans for Jackson Park.
It’s about the PARK
JPW appreciates Lolly Bowean’s recent analysis in the Tribune , skillfully demonstrating that differing opinions about the roads, the Obama Presidential Center and the golf course are not neatly divided along any of the predictable lines of race, class, or education. As we all work toward an outcome that is positive for Jackson Park, for the neighborhood, for the broader community, and for the OPC and its positive mission, JPW hopes that we can remember this.
Preservation Chicago continues to sound the alarm
A year ago Preservation Chicago included Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center in its annual “Chicago 7 Most Endangered ” list of historic sites in Chicago, shining a light on the threats represented by proposals for the parks from private-interest groups with no public accountability — the Obama Foundation, the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, and Project 120. Now Preservation Chicago has taken the unusual step of including those two parks again in its 2018 Chicago 7 list, indeed putting them at the top of the list and adding the Midway Plaisance to the roster of threatened South Side landmarks. Renewing its call for a transparent, comprehensive, and thoughtful planning process for the South Side parks to protect the historic landscapes and structures, Preservation Chicago also offers six specific recommendations that warrant the attention of JPW readers.
Section 106-related updates
The JPW website’s coverage of the federal reviews currently underway now includes a letter from the Hyde Park Historical Society concerning Cornell Drive and the Perennial Garden that was recently submitted for the Section 106/NEPA process. The federal reviews themselves have been delayed and extended. The next Section 106 meeting, originally scheduled for February, will now take place sometime in March; the full federal review process is now expected to continue until at least December.
Save this date: Plan Commission hearing April 19
While the federal reviews seemingly lag, the Chicago Plan Commission hearing on the applications for the OPC and the CDOT-designed road changes remains set for April 19. There will be opportunities for testimony from the public; you may want to plan to be there. JPW’s FOIA work indicates that surprisingly few impact studies about of the Obama tower or road changes have been conducted in preparation for that hearing. JPW remains concerned about the absence of overall comprehensive planning and the segmented nature of the approach the City and Obama Foundation are pursuing. Look for more about these issues in the future.
Your support is essential!
As the Plan Commission hearing date nears, we continue to seek expert legal and technical counsel in order 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