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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Sun-Times – Former Emanuel aide out of shadows on golf project

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former campaign manager came out of the shadows Monday to make the case for merging the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a single, championship-caliber course.

Michael Ruemmler’s role as a founding director of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance has fueled speculation that the fix was in for a project that gained momentum when President Barack Obama chose Jackson Park for his presidential library….

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Chicago Tribune – Cornell Drive cutoff could aid pedestrians in Jackson Park

Whether or not the Obama Foundation gets the green light to close a major road that helps connect Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago Skyway, give the concept this much: It puts a key issue on the civic agenda — how to re-balance the pedestrian-car relationship in Jackson Park.

At this point, it’s weighted heavily in favor of cars…..

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Chicago Tribune – Obama Foundation floats idea of closing roads in Jackson Park

The Obama Foundation is floating the idea of closing a major thoroughfare that connects Lake Shore Drive motorists to the South Side and a key route to Indiana and Michigan to create a pedestrian campus around its planned presidential library and museum in Jackson Park, according to several people briefed on the private discussions.

The bold suggestion to close off Cornell Drive between 60th and 67th streets is being floated with community leaders. Such a move would be yet another seismic shift for the historic park, where private interests are advancing major changes…..

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Hyde Park Herald – Chicago Park District meets with 5th ward residents to discuss golf complex

Chicago Park District CEO Mike Kelly met with a packed room of 5th Ward residents Tuesday night, Jan. 24, at South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St., to listen and address questions, comments, and concerns regarding the proposed South Shore Golf Complex.

Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Tiger Woods, a career professional golf player, would oversee the renovations for a new, $30 million golf complex for golf courses….

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Jackson Park Watch Update – January 14, 2017

Greetings all,

JPW Issues in the spotlight

Transparency!  Community input on major decisions!  Priority in Jackson Park for local uses and local users!   These issues, first defined by JPW with regard to Project 120’s plans, have now taken front and center stage as pushback against the Chicago Park District’s plan to for an elite golf course in Jackson Park and South Shore grows.  A partial survey of recent print media shows the JPW concerns are widespread:

Yesterday’s 01/13/17 Tribune editorial takes up the issue, with a headline asserting “Big plans on the South Side for a Tiger Woods Course can’t shut out locals.”  The editorial raises major concerns about backroom decision-making, the lack of community input, and potential adverse impacts on local park uses and park users.  Read the full editorial at:

A Tribune article (01/12/17) highlighted the contradiction between Park District assertions that the plan was “not a done deal” and the Park Board’s decision the day before to move ahead with a contract to start on the project.  Read the article at

A Sun-Times article (01/10/17) highlighted a call by Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry for the Park District board to call off a vote for the contract starting work.  Read the article at

There have been multiple articles in the Hyde Park Herald and DNAInfo as well as in other sources.  An interview with JPW’s Margaret Schmid aired on Chicago Tonight on 01/11/17, and the controversy was included in last night’s Chicago Tonight’s Week in Review.

What’s next?

Park District CEO Mike Kelly will be at Alderman Leslie Hairston’s January 24 ward meeting to talk about the golf course.  JPW and others will be urging a huge turnout.  PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO BE THERE – NUMBERS SPEAK VOLUMES.  The meeting will be from 6 to 8 at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy, 1415 E. 70th St. There is a small parking lot off of Dorchester, to the west of the school, and there is free parking on the streets.  You will hear from us again before this meeting with more information, including, we hope, the exact time Mr. Kelly will be there.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Coordinators, Jackson Park Watch
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Chicago Tribune – As groups voice concern, Park District moves ahead….

Two days after assuring South Side residents that a Tiger Woods-designed golf course in Jackson Park was not yet a sure thing, Chicago park officials Wednesday awarded a $1.1 million contract to begin site planning and engineering work.

The pact with SmithGroup JJR — the park board’s first public action on a project that has been shaping up privately for months — comes as park neighbors and activists are pushing to have a voice on the project, which is queued up for groundbreaking this spring…..

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Chicago Suntimes – Park board urged to call off vote…

Arguing that the $30 million project is being “shoved down the community’s throat,” Friends of the Parks is urging the Chicago Park District board to put off Wednesday’s vote on a $1.1 million contract to design and engineer merger of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses.

Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry’s opposition….

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