Jackson Park Special Update – January 9, 2018

Greetings, all!

TO KEEP EVERYONE UP TO DATE, HERE IS THE VERY LATEST NEWS:

The parking garage: The Obama Foundation has announced that it is abandoning its attempt to build an above-ground parking garage at the east end of the Midway Plaisance and will instead build a garage underground on the site already designated for the Obama Presidential Center.  Read all about it in the Sun-Times, Tribune, and Herald.  Congratulations to all those who helped create this positive outcome!  Let us all hope that the Obama Foundation continues to listen to community voices!

UChicago faculty letter:   Faculty at the University of Chicago are circulating a letter stating concerns about  numerous aspects of the Obama Foundation plans to date and raising the question of whether an alternate site for the OPC should be considered.   As reported in Crain’s Chicago Business, “W.J.T. Mitchell, a professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago, said he and Jonathan Lear, a philosophy professor, initiated the letter. Mitchell, author of a book, “Landscape and Power,” attended community meetings hosted by backers of the Obama Center and found them patronizing, he said. Compared with long presentations, he said, there was little time for questions from the audience. ‘More and more I heard these murmurs of discontent, which were getting louder and louder,’ he says, recalling his conclusion: ‘Well . . . this is one of those Chicago power plays.’”    (Note: you may have trouble accessing the full text of the Crain’s article unless you subscribe or have established a log-in.)

FOTP comments on the Section 106 review:  We want to add to the report in our last Update on the federal review of the impact of the OPC the historic Jackson Park.  In its consulting party statement, Friends of the Parks identified the siting of the OPC in Jackson Park as a key adverse effect on the entire Olmsted park system; highlighted the need to preserve the road system in keeping with the Olmsted design; and called again for comprehensive park planning.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

 

Jackson Park Watch Update – January 6, 2018

Greetings, all, and Happy 2018!

2018 is off to a busy start on Jackson Park issues.

Federal agencies review OPC and CDOT plans:

Update readers will recall that the federally-required reviews of the massive proposed changes for Jackson Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, began on December 1. The initial focus is on Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and an accompanying review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) that will begin soon.

JPW among many others signed on to be a “consulting party” to the Section 106 process and was at that December kickoff meeting. At that meeting, a proposed list of historic park features and maps of the “Area of Potential Effect” (APE) that would be evaluated during the review were presented, and consulting parties were invited to submit feedback for the public record by January 5. To date, we have been able to review the submissions by Save the Midway, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Midway Plaisance Advisory Council, Openlands, Landmarks Illinois, National Association of Olmsted Parks, Blacks in Green, and Preservation Chicago – and our own, of course. Some major concerns and themes that we found repeated again and again include:

  • Requests for a one, holistic, comprehensive review of all the proposed plans for the Park, stemming from frustration with the siloed attempt to assess the impact of the various proposals (OPC, golf course, road changes, Park District elements) separately, in isolation.
  • Requests that full information about all planned projects be revealed (especially those for Obama Presidential Center and the golf course) along with questions as to how a possibly premature review aimed at a moving target could be productive.
  • Deep concerns about the ways in which the OPC plan and in particular the road changes that it requires distort or destroy Frederick Law Olmsted’s design and vision for Jackson Park.
  • Numerous recommendations that the APE be expanded to include all of the Midway Plaisance (not just the eastern tip) and additional suggestions to include Washington Park as well to fully respect Olmsted’s original concept of the three parks as a single South Park System.
  • Substantial opposition to the above-ground parking garage on the Midway Plaisance as proposed by the Obama Foundation, along with multiple suggestions for an underground garage under the OPC buildings.

We want also to highlight some additional points from these individual submissions (with apologies for omitting other excellent points in the interests of space):

  • The Cultural Landscape Foundation strongly critiqued Obama Presidential Center plans, including the design of the high rise “Tower” and the proposed changes to the Olmsted road network that contradict the original Olmsted intent. TCLF president Charles Birnbaum stated many of the concerns in a Huffington Post op-ed piece.
  • Openlands proposed a statement of principles to guide the Section 106 review including: minimize building in the parks; replace any land used for buildings with new or reclaimed park acreage (with the added note that the greening of vacated roads does not constitute new park land); provide convenient public access and transportation; exploit synergies with existing community and cultural institutions; and restore and revitalize all of the parks – Jackson, Washington, and the Midway Plaisance.
  • Landmarks Illinois called for expanding the APE to include both the Woodlawn neighborhood in light of potential economic displacement impacts there and the Jackson Park Highlands Historic District, and, within the APE, for acknowledging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers GLFER Project on and around Wooded Island as a national model for balancing ecological needs with historic preservation goals.
  • The National Association of Olmsted Parks called for designation of Cornell Drive and Hayes Drive themselves as historic resources within Jackson Park.
  • Preservation Chicago added concerns about the proposed removal of the May McAdams Perennial Garden between Stony Island Ave. and Cornell Drive where Jackson Park meets the Midway and the impact on the Park’s many and invaluable trees, green spaces and gardens.
  • Finally, Jackson Park Watch asked that the review area include the entire golf course project and challenged the claim that the existing 1999-2000 Framework plans calls for closing Cornell Drive, points raised also by Blacks in Green.

We believe all would benefit from reading in full the thoughtful statements from all of the consulting parties noted above. We hope soon to be able to post these documents and others Section 106/NEPA materials on our Jackson Park Watch website. Stay tuned while we work this out.

Also ahead in 2018:

JPW is also tracking other strands of the Jackson Park story and will keep you informed:

  • The Park District has said it will hold community meetings on the golf course project in the first quarter of the year but there is as yet no schedule. Park District CEO Mike Kelly recently noted that the project is stalled by private fundraising difficulties and the high public cost of the necessary infrastructure improvements ($30 million for underpasses; TBD for shoreline revetments), but he vowed to continue to push the project.
  • Whether the golf course project discussions will be under the umbrella of the South Lakefront Framework Plan process is unclear.       Next steps and the end date for that process is unclear, but we expect that the Park District will hold additional public open houses on the Framework Plan in the first part of this year.
  • Throughout 2017 the Obama Foundation repeated its intention to present the plan for the OPC to the City Council and Chicago Plan Commission by November.   Now there are references to making that submission in the first half of 2018.       In the meantime, the Obama Foundation has just awarded its construction management contracts, while it has continued to refuse to work with the Obama Community Benefits Coalition on a written community benefits agreement. The possible construction start date is now set for the end of the year.

PLEASE DONATE!

The Section 106 reviews will continue for many months, and much is at stake. Your donations help us bring outside expertise to maximize our effectiveness. Please consider a contribution. Your check 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
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

 

Jackson Park Watch Update – December 21, 2017

Greetings, all!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND BEST WISHES FOR 2018!

Obama Center parking

Just when we thought there might be a break from Jackson Park action for the holidays, the Obama Foundation called an invitation-only meeting for Wednesday night, 12/20, to discuss parking garage plans.  JPW was there, along with top staff from Chicago-area park, open space, and preservation organizations, leaders of concerned local groups, and many others.

Sadly, despite some earlier suggestions to the contrary, the meeting revealed only that the Obama Foundation is choosing to willfully ignore the objections by large segments of the community as well as other organizations to the placement of the parking garage on the Midway and instead is digging in and making only minor tweaks to its earlier design.

After a lengthy description of these minor changes, including the assertion yet again that this was not a done deal and they were still considering alternatives, Obama Foundation V.P. Mike Strautmanis. moderated a Q & A session.  Many questions were raised about the need for and desirability of having the parking garage in that location.  Numerous people suggested that an underground parking garage should instead be constructed on the already-designated OPC plot. Mike Strautmanis insisted that cost was not a primary consideration in determining the location or design  of the garage, although it is generally known that an underground garage at this location with its high water table would be very pricey.  Others focused on transportation issues more broadly and the folly of trying to address the garage issue in isolation from an overall transportation plan for Jackson Park and the Midway. Some supported the basic idea of the parking garage.  And then, suddenly, time was up, with little time for follow-up.

A KEY POINT: The Foundation and its architects are now arguing that an above ground parking garage, by requiring people to walk the short distance to the OPC, will create opportunities for shops and restaurants in the neighborhood. They continue to refer to the area as “underutilized” and in need of “activation.”  However, the Foundation and its architects seem to misunderstand the essential character of the neighborhood around OPC’s desired site: it is residential and institutional, not full of vacant spaces awaiting development.  Unless the University converts its parking lot at 60th and Stony Island to commercial space, or unless Leon Finney’s Woodlawn Community Development Corporation demolishes some of its existing residential development along Stony Island between 60th and Hyde Park Academy, there simply is no space for restaurants and shops within any reasonable distance from the proposed OPC location.

Bottom line:  few if any minds were changed.  Next steps?  Expect the issue to be raised multiple times in many ways in the Section 106 /NEPA reviews now under way.

Darrow Bridge for sale?

The recent article about the Chicago Department of Transportation’s proposed sale of historic Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park is likely to be the beginning rather than the end of the story.  (Note: CDOT calls it the Columbia Bridge.) As recently as August, information available in a CDOT “charrette” focused on the bridge indicated that restoration plans were complete, funding was on hand, and all was moving ahead: not a word about a sale.  Darrow Bridge supporters and historic preservationists have now mobilized, seeking more information and looking for alternatives.  Stay tuned.

Year-end giving

If you are still thinking about year-end tax-deductible gifts, perhaps prompted by the new tax bill, consider a donation to Jackson Park Watch.  It is clear that the crucially important Section 106/NEPA reviews that have just begun will continue for many months, and that much is at stake.  Your donations help us bring outside expertise to maximize our effectiveness.  Your check 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
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Action Alert – December 9, 2017

Greetings all,

CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT COMPOUNDS THE CONFUSION – YOUR INPUT NEEDED MONDAY NIGHT

While continuing to ignore the elephants in the room (the siting of the Obama Presidential Center, the proposed road closures/realignments, the proposed golf course consolidation/expansion), the Chicago Park District has now thrown a grab bag of new options into the mix at its latest round of open-house meetings. The second and last of these hastily announced presentations takes place this Monday, Dec. 11, from 6 to 9 pm at the South Shore Cultural Center. Doors open at 6; presentation at 6:30; open house follows. We urge you to attend!

As in prior meetings, there are a myriad of “boards” displaying possible layouts of the park, with staff posted at each. Specifically, we encourage you to discuss what you like and what you don’t with the staff (some from the Park District, some from the hired consultants). These in-depth discussions on individual park features are more significant than the overall general “vote” that attendees are asked to cast. It is not a question of choosing a single scenario but rather of identifying the desirable and preferred features in each (and tagging the undesirable ones as well).

The new options – packaged as three scenarios – range from bad (a revived “music pavilion” in scenarios one and two, one option locating it at Cornell Drive and 59th St.), to potentially useful (new walkways, a relocated dog park, a boardwalk along the lagoon near the Music Bridge), to intriguing but expensive (new water features in scenarios two and three, construction of a “point” in the lake at the 63rd St. beach). Attention to the details will be important.

The Park District is going to use feedback at these meetings in devising its next steps. While it is possible to view the boards and comment online, direct discussion is much more productive and powerful. This is one of those times when in-person input may carry real weight.

Please feel free to share this Action Alert widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-founders, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – December 2, 2017

Greetings all,

TWO BIG NEWS ITEMS:

·         OPC submission to Plan Commission pushed back, possible design changes to come, as Section 106 review process begins.

·         Park District schedules Open Houses for Dec. 7 and 11 on alternative recreation plans for Jackson Park – but OPC and proposed traffic changes still seen as driving Park planning.

Section 106 review process begins

On Thursday  the Sun-Times reported that the Obama Foundation would be delaying its submission to the Chicago Plan Commission for several months.  On Friday, at the kick-off meeting for the Section 106 review of the OPC and related proposals, there were signals that the Obama Foundation may be further changing its design plans:  Eleanor Gorski, Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the lead facilitator of the Section 106 review process, said that she understands that the Obama Foundation may submit “refined” design plans early in 2018.  We will be on the lookout and will let you know!

The lack of clarity about schedules, designs and site footprints, and scope of the review was evident throughout the busy, two-hour meeting at the South Side Y Friday morning.  The meeting started with confusion as the organizers had apparently anticipated a much smaller group.  While those registered as consulting parties were directed to a conference room at the Y that held about 100, many others attendees were directed across the street to an overflow room at the Jackson Park Field House, where they could view the session via a video stream.   Eleanor Gorski gave a very useful PowerPoint presentation outlining both the Section 106 and the NEPA reviews, which are coordinated but separate in purpose and process.   The first step in the Section 106 review is the definition of the “area of potential effect” and the development of an inventory of historic resources in that area.   This first step, now underway, is expected to take several months, and the full Section 106 process could extend until the fall.  The NEPA review will parallel the Section 106 process, but its schedule has not yet been announced.  The HeraldTribune, and Sun-Times provide useful summaries and perspectives on the meeting.

Overall, we learned that there would be an extended review period, with many steps and meetings to be announced , but – as the question period revealed – it was not clear exactly what is to be reviewed and why the scope of the review process has been defined as it has.   Among the many questions posed (but not fully answered):

·         How can any review go forward before the OPC site footprint and its design plan are settled?

·         How can the closure of Marquette Drive and the construction of underpasses for the golf project be included in the review without also including all of the plans for the golf course merger?

·         Why is the South Shore Cultural Center not included in the area under review?

·         Why are parts of Woodlawn and Hyde Park and the entirety of Promontory Point appropriately  identified as “Areas of Potential Effect,” but areas of South Shore just south of 67th Street – including the Jackson Park Highlands historic district — not so designated?

·         In identifying historic resources in Jackson Park, should not Cornell Drive and Hayes Drive, which trace Olmsted’s design, be included, as well as his design for the natural plantings?

Also noted – with raised eyebrows — was the potential for conflict of interests.  Although the Federal Highway Administration is the lead federal agency for the overall review, the Section 106 review process is being directed by representatives of the City’s Department of Planning and Development and the Department of Transportation,  the agencies that are officially advocating for the designs that are now under review. Although we have been assured that such an arrangement is not uncommon, skepticism and unease were evident.

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Park District Open Houses set for Dec. 7 and 11 — MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Thursday, December 7, AND  Monday, December 11
South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Drive
6:00pm – 9:00pm

With unfortunately little advance notice, the Park District has announced two open houses to consider “options for recreational and cultural park uses.”  While still claiming that the South Lakefront Framework plan is under development, the language in its news release indicates that the OPC and the attendant road closure/realignments are driving and circumscribing the park planning process – even while those plans themselves are in flux – rather than the other way around.  Nonetheless your participation and input about options for ball fields, nature areas, and golf options are important.  We urge you to attend one of the meetings and to voice your opinions of the options presented.

From the Park District press release November 30:

As part of its ongoing South Lakefront Framework Plan process that began in June, the Chicago Park District announced today that it will host another two community meetings to present and solicit community feedback on potential park uses and capital improvements to Jackson and South Shore Parks. These meetings will focus on options for the rest of the park systems, building on plans for the Obama Presidential Center and traffic mitigations that were previously presented to the public.

The meetings will be focused solely on the options for recreational and cultural park uses; no new information will be presented about the Obama Presidential Center itself or proposed transportation improvements. The meetings will be held on December 7 and December 11 at the South Shore Cultural Center, located at 7059 S. South Shore Dr., from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Thank you again! 

We have received generous tax-deductible donations from many and are grateful for the confidence placed in us.  We are putting the funds to work in the form of expert assistance for what we do.  As these reviews move forward, we will continue to gratefully accept checks sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.

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As always, feel free to share this Update widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update 11 26 17

Greetings all,

As usual, a lot has been happening, including Thanksgiving! We hope you had an enjoyable one, with friends and family, good food, and many things to be thankful for.

In the interim since our 11/11 Update, much seems to have changed. Here is a run-down:

Plan Commission submission seemingly pushed back

The Obama Foundation has repeatedly said it would submit the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) proposal to the Chicago Plan Commission this calendar year. Now that seems to have changed. While all things are possible with Chicago politics, it is very unlikely that the OPC proposal will be submitted to the Plan Commission for consideration at its December 21 meeting. (Of course, we will continue to be vigilant.) Instead, it appears that the Plan Commission review may be delayed for several months and that the required historical and environmental reviews will start first.

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Historical and environmental reviews pushed forward

The City Department of Planning and Development has posted a website with the disarming title of “Environmental Review of Jackson Park Improvements.” You may want to take a look.

https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/jackson-park-improvements.html.

After the initial (promotional) paragraphs there is useful information about both of these required reviews – the NEPA review, required under the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Section 106 review, required under the National Historic Preservation Act.

These very important reviews were first noted in a single poster board at the CDOT open houses in August, but there has been very little public discussion of them. Nonetheless, numerous interested groups including Jackson Park Watch have signed on as “consulting parties” for the Section 106 review, scheduled to start on an extremely short-time line, next Friday, December 1. (In fact, JPW is aware of some groups that have requested consulting party status but have not yet received their official invitations, raising questions about the feasibility of the Dec. 1 start date.)

In addition to JPW, other consulting parties that we are now aware of include FOTP, Preservation Chicago, Openlands, Landmarks Illinois, at least one national organization (The Cultural Landscape Foundation), and numerous other local organizations including the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council, Save the Midway and several members of the Community Benefits Agreement coalition. Consulting parties will be able to raise concerns and pursue questions. JPW is working on a statement of concerns for the initial Section 106 meeting, and we are in discussion with an attorney with expertise on Section 106 reviews, especially those related to historic properties such as Jackson Park.

Scrutiny of the maps sent with the official invitation to be a consulting party and available also on the City website shows several interesting and problematic features, among them these:

  • The maps depict the Obama Presidential Center buildings as located on the parkland it has most recently claimed despite the fact the portion of Jackson Park designated for use by the Obama Presidential Library (not Presidential Center) by the City Ordinance of March 2015 is not the same as that now desired by the Obama Foundation.
  • The maps depict the roadway work under review as including Marquette Drive, despite the fact that the proposed Marquette Drive closure has nothing to do with the OPC. (In fact, the Obama Foundation has several times said that the golf course consolidation/expansion project is not its project.) It appears that either the Marquette Drive closure should be severed from this Section 106/NEPA review, or the entire golf course consolidation/expansion project should be added in order to ensure that the golf course project does not escape these vital reviews.
  • The maps depict the current roads to be affected by CDOT’s plans but do not show the proposed reconfigurations.
  • The maps depict the main OPC building as being 220’ tall, which is 40’ higher than previously reported.

As noted on the City website, there will opportunities for broader public participation as well through the NEPA review process and additional meetings to be scheduled for the South Lakefront Framework Planning process. We will alert you to those public meetings as the schedules are announced.

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What next?

Based on what we know at present, we anticipate that revisions to the OPC and CDOT proposals resulting from these concurrent reviews – if any – will then be submitted to the Plan Commission for approval. We will be sharing information about that schedule, ways of participating in the Plan Commission process and more when that time comes. We have been asked about the possibility of seeking a remedy in the courts if need be and would simply add that we are not there yet.

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Thank you!

We have received generous tax-deductible donations from many and are grateful for the confidence placed in us. While we are comfortable with our current bank balance, it now appears that we will need to retain the services of two attorneys – one for the Section 106 process and one for the Plan Commission process – and perhaps a traffic consultant as well, so we may be making an urgent request for your financial support at some future point. In the meantime, we will continue to gratefully accept checks sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.

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As always, feel free to share this Update widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – November 11, 2017

Greetings all,

We are at an important point:

  • As you will see below, the Obama Presidential Center and the controversies that swirl around it have become big news.  There is so much media coverage that it is hard to keep up.
  • As reported in several articles and in a Tribune editorial, the Obama Foundation may be beginning to respond to the community, at least on the issue of the above-ground parking garage it proposes for the Midway.  This is heartening.  We hope the seeming responsiveness continues and expands to all the issues in contention.
  • Also, there are some signs that the Obama Foundation is slowing its rush to submit the OPC proposal to the Chicago Plan Commission.   We hope this proves to be the case.
  • We continue to believe that it will be better for the community and for the Obama Presidential Center itself if the Obama Foundation engages openly and candidly with the community on the full range of issues that are in play.  It is not yet too late.
  • In the meantime, keep raising your voices and explaining your concerns!

OPC in the news!

A growing number of groups and individuals are expressing skepticism about the plans for the Obama Presidential Center, as reported in the Tribune, the Reader, and the Washington Post.  The Tribune concluded in its Nov. 8 editorial that both the City and the Obama Foundation need to be more responsive and to provide concrete answers to the community’s many questions

At the same time, area citizens have been forthright in writing to local newspapers to air their concerns about the empty promise of “trust us,” the conflicted legacy of a community organizer, the lack of community input, and the lack of economic impact where it is most needed.

The first Obama Foundation Summit generated lots of headlines with its innovative programming and celebrity participants.  It also yielded new reports on the evolving design and timetable for the OPC.  The Sun-Times reported comments by Tod Williams, the one of the Center’s architects, that the plans for the parking garage on the Midway were being reconsidered and also commented on active discussions between the Obama Foundation and the Chicago Public Library concerning the possible location of  a branch library within the OPC.    In the Tribune, Blair Kamin noted that the Obama Foundation had evidently slowed its schedule for submission of its plans to the Chicago Plan Commission and commented on the continuing mantle of secrecy surrounding the OPC design.

Meanwhile, the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition expanded its efforts to bring the Obama Foundation to the negotiating table with a demonstration at the  OPC site on Nov. 7.    About 130 enthusiastic supporters turned out for speeches and a brief interruption of rush-hour commutes at the intersection of Cornell and Hayes drives.  As the Tribune reported, the CBA advocates  believe that the transfer of  public parkland for the OPC carries with it a requirement for public accountability.  

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Tracking the OPC submission to the Chicago Plan Commission:

Speculation abounds as to when and by what method the Obama Foundation will formally submit its proposal for the Obama Presidential Center for approval by the Chicago Plan Commission.  The Plan Commission hearing will be the most critical opportunity for community comment.  Much will depend on what the submission looks like, and although the Obama Foundation may have slowed its timeline for the submission, we need to be vigilant.   While we wait, here is what we actually know:

  1. Notification:  Notices about the submission of the application for Plan Commission approval  must be sent to “property owners” within 250 feet of the boundaries of the “subject property,” not including roads or alleys, at least 15 days prior to the Plan Commission hearing.
  2. Who will receive the notification? “Property owner” in this case means the individual  (or the individual’s agent) who receives and pays the property tax bill.  Thus, individual unit owners in a condominium building would receive individual notices, as would owners of single family houses.  Residents in cooperatives would not receive an individual notice; the notice would go to a coop officer or perhaps to the property manager.  Renters would not receive notices; the building’s owner would.
  3. What is the “subject property”?Given this unusual situation, it is not clear what the ”subject property” will actually be and thus is it unclear what area will be affected by the mandatory notice requirement.  The notification zone almost certainly would stretch all along the west side of Stony Island between 63rd St/Hayes and the Midway, and then perhaps 250 feet further south and north as well.  It may well include all of the area east of the Metra tracks.
  4. Be on the lookout if you are in the notification zone:  Because neither Margaret nor Brenda is eligible for this notification, we ask everyone who may be receiving a notice to monitor the mail carefullyand contact us immediately upon receiving the notice.  The notice is likely to be sent via regular business mail, coming perhaps from a law firm or other agent acting on behalf of the Obama Foundation; it is even conceivable that it will be from the City.
  5. Then what? As soon as we have a chance to review the notice with our attorney, we will share information about what comes next.  We will be able to inform all concerned about the hearing and provide details about how one can testify or otherwise provide input into that assessment.
  6. IMPORTANT: You do NOT have to receive an official notification to be able to testify at the Plan Commission hearing! In general, anyone who wishes to comment on a proposal that has been submitted to the Plan Commission can do so.  Statements are limited to 3 minutes.  We will no doubt want to do a lot of advance planning to ensure that all of the important points are covered.

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JPW Recognized as a VIP!

That’s VIP as in “Volunteer-in-Parks.”   On Nov. 5, Friends of the Parks recognized Jackson Park Watch at its 2017 VIP Awards Reception, meeting this year in Douglas Park.    JPW was honored to be acknowledged for its advocacy efforts on behalf of Jackson Park.

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Thank you! 

We have received generous donations from many and are grateful for the confidence placed in us.  Although we will continue to gratefully accept checks sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615, we now have enough in our account to fund this current phase of our work.  However, we may be asking for your financial support again in the future.

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As always, feel free to share this Update widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-founders, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – October 17, 2017

Greetings all,

A lot is happening!  Here is a rundown of recent developments and major news items.

BUT FIRST – please donate!  Jackson Park Watch fund-raising is off to a promising start but major challenges are ahead.  Although the Chicago Park District has slowed development of a new Framework Plan for Jackson Park and South Shore, the Obama Foundation continues to say it will submit its proposal for the Obama Presidential Center to the Chicago Plan Commission before the end of the year.  JPW is seeking expert counsel to ensure that community concerns are heard and have impact, and your tax-deductible financial support is needed to make that happen.  Send checks made out to “Jackson Park Watch” to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  E-mail jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com with any questions.

Another land grab? Community members have launched Save the Midway, a campaign to oppose the Obama Foundation’s proposal to build an above-ground parking garage on the eastern tip of the Midway Plaisance.  Visit their website to sign their virtual postcard. Read about the background of the initiative in the Hyde Park Herald .

What will be in those OPC buildings? The Tribune recently examined the implications of the fact that the OPC will not be a research library or public archive, but rather will be an entirely private enterprise.  Plans for the Obama Museum (that really tall building) were recently described by Louise Bernard, the Museum’s founding director, at a panel discussion at the DuSable Museum:  there will be a large public lobby, five levels of museum displays, a “sky room” on the top for community viewing, and in between, a suite for the use of the Obamas.

Golf course plan still unknown:  The Tribune editorial board has taken the City and Park District to task for trying to orchestrate a “secretive rush job” for approval of the proposed golf course merger.  While praising the Park District’s decision to slow down the review process, the editorial calls for the Park District to heed and address community concerns about the course’s affordability and accessibility and about the threatened nature sanctuary.  JPW raised these questions in its Aug. 4 open letter to the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance and Park District without any response to date.

OPC still rushing ahead:   On a related note, JPW also praised the Park District at its October Board meeting for slowing down the South Lakefront Framework Plan process.  At the same time JPW noted  the disconnect between the Park District schedule and the OPC’s determination to rush ahead with its plans:

Spokesmen for the Obama Foundation and OPC architects have stated on more than on occasion their aim to fully integrate the OPC with Jackson Park.  If they are sincere, then they should delay the submission of the OPC plans to the Plan Commission until the Framework planning process is complete.  And they should participate in the active dialogue and give-and-take of the Framework Plan process and be prepared not only to advance their ideas and vision but also to adapt those ideas on occasion to the community’s vision for the park.  Until there is such active conversation and collaboration, this is just another case of the park being sliced and diced into unconnected segments for special interests, with no regard for Olmsted’s holistic vision.   The Park District and its Commissioners should not acquiesce to the distortion and undercutting of the Framework Plan process.

About trees and accountability:   A commentator in the Sun-Times, highlighting the need for the OPC to be more transparent in its planning and fully accountable to the public, lamented the untold number of mature trees in Jackson Park that may be sacrificed to the OPC.  (And indeed the OPC landscape architects stated at an invitation-only meeting in August that most of existing trees on the site would be cut.)  The writer concluded:  “The city has given decision-making control over a large section of public land to a private entity that is not accountable to the public. . . . I would argue, however that the situation must change, and soon.”

More news coverage:

Jackson Park under threat: The Cultural Landscape Foundation has included Jackson Park in its Landslide 2017 listing of threatened public spaces across the United States.  Noting the historic stature of the Olmsted-designed park system, the TCLF designation highlights the threats posed both by the sizable and shifting footprint of the now-private Obama Presidential Center and by the proposed golf course merger that will remove existing recreational facilities and curtail access by local golfers.   The recognition brings national attention to issues and questions that are already being recognized and raised locally, with increasing urgency.

What about the broken walkways? Amid all the focus on new projects, the ongoing and long-neglected maintenance needs of Jackson Park and neighboring parks were the initial focus of an investigation by Carol Marin of NBC5 News that aired on October 4.

Might be interesting:  On Monday, Oct. 23, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m., Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, and Alex Goldenberg, executive director of Southside Together Organizing for Power, will discuss issues surrounding the proposed construction of the Obama Presidential Center.  The meeting at the First Unitarian Church (5650 S. Woodlawn Ave.) is sponsored by Indivisible Chicago South Side.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-founders, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

Jackson Park Watch Update – October 5, 2017

Greetings all,

Here is that IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!  JPW has incorporated and is now raising money to carry on our work to ensure community input and transparency in major decisions about Jackson Park. 

We hope you are excited and pleased!  And we hope you will want to contribute.  Checks made out to Jackson Park Watch can be sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago IL 60615. Sorry, but we cannot accept on-line contributions at this time.  Visit the new DONATE tab on our web site for additional information. (http://jacksonparkwatch.org/donate/).

Here are some excerpts from the media release we have just now sent out:

. . . Jackson Park Watch (JPW) announces that it has incorporated as an Illinois nonprofit organization and is soliciting tax-deductible contributions under a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Friends of the Parks. The funds will be used to engage new legal and other expert counsel to expand JPW’s ongoing work of gathering and sharing information about proposed changes in Jackson Park. The focus is on the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and related projects including road closures and realignments, an above-ground parking garage, and a PGA-type golf course. JPW has been gathering and sharing information related to the OPC through its widely followed Jackson Park Watch Updates since the July 2016 announcement that the center would be located in Jackson Park.

JPW co-president Brenda Nelms explains: “In keeping with our core priorities of ensuring community input and transparent decision-making on major matters relating to historic Jackson Park, we want to provide accurate and useful information about the review processes that lie ahead for the Obama Presidential Center as it is submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission. Retaining legal and other expert counsel will enable us to understand not only how the review processes work but how interested groups and individuals can make their voices heard so as to maximize their impact.”

Adds JPW co-president Margaret Schmid: “We welcome the OPC to Chicago’s South Side and wish President Obama the best as his visionary and exciting civic engagement and community-building programs are implemented. But it is the unfortunate truth that many aspects of the OPC proposal and related proposals have generated significant community concerns that have not been addressed. We believe that it is in the best interests of the OPC itself as well as of the community that these issues are fully aired and properly addressed as the Chicago Plan Commission and other relevant reviews take place.”. . . .

As always, feel free to share this Update widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-founders, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch

 

Jackson Park Watch Update – October 2, 2017

Greetings all,

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Reviewing the Park District’s open house meetings 9/25 and 9/27: what we learned, what we didn’t
  • Obama Foundation CEO David Simas offers one new bit of information

ALSO

  • Check out JPW’s improved and updated web site at jacksonparkwatch.org. Share it widely!
  • And Heads Up: be on the lookout for an important JPW announcement coming soon

###

Park District Open House Sessions, September 25 and 27, show OPC, South Lakefront Framework Plan on different tracks

Track 1: South Lakefront Framework Plan process extended, still nothing new on golf course proposal

  • The Park District announced on 9/25 that it was extending the timetable for the Framework Plan process to January 2018, at which point a draft plan would be presented to the CPD Board of Commissioners. This is welcome news, although it remains unclear whether the extension will result in a plan reflecting community views. Note, however, the Obama Foundation is still aiming to submit its plans to the Chicago Plan Commission in November or December. (See below)
  • Presentation boards offered a wealth of visual data about the history and current usages of the parks, providing among other information ample evidence of the dependence of residents of Woodlawn and South Shore on Jackson Park for public recreational facilities such as the basketball and tennis courts and baseball and soccer fields that are targeted for removal by the golf course proposal.   Park District staff and consultants answered questions and took comments, but notably absent, despite earlier assurances, was any new information about the PGA golf course proposal. (The boards are viewable at https://southlakefrontplan.com/documents .)
  • The next phase, “Scenarios,” is projected to occur at some as-yet-unspecified time in November when the Park District will present “conceptual alternatives and design recommendations” for public review and comment. While it was good to hear that various options would be forthcoming, it was also clear that the Park District’s options are entirely constrained and driven by the plan for the OPC.   That is, the framework for the South Lakefront Framework Plan is being dictated by the Obama Foundation and not by public input on needs and preferences.

Track 2: Obama Presidential Center and traffic reconfigurations

  • There were a few posters about the Obama Presidential Center and the proposed traffic reconfigurations. They were entirely separate from the Park District’s presentations, and are not included in the documents available on-line. Both presentations were basically the same thing the community has seen before — neither showed any modifications or acknowledgement of the many concerns expressed about the current proposals.
  • There was no information about when there would be additional public meetings to review the next iteration of CDOT’s traffic maps.
  • There was no information about when or if the Obama Foundation would hold additional public meetings to review the plans for the OPC prior to their submission to the Chicago Plan Commission in November or December, as originally scheduled.

###

Obama Foundation CEO Lecture

Obama Foundation CEO David Simas spoke to a moderately full house at the Harold Washington Library on Monday evening 9/25.  Those who have been following the descriptions of the planned Obama Presidential Center programs — exciting and visionary as they sound — heard nothing new.  What was new was Simas’s suggestion that an amphitheater with capacity for 3000-5000 persons would be part of the OPC complex. JPW will be on the lookout for more information on this.

As always, feel free to share this Update widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-founders, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/jacksonparkwatch