Jackson Park Watch Update, February 15, 2021

Greetings, all,  

Time for scrutiny and accountability

In its Feb. 11 editorial concerning the Obama Presidential Center, the Chicago Tribune pointed to unresolved OPC issues related to economic growth, gentrification, and traffic flow even while interpreting the City’s announcement of the near conclusion of the federal reviews as a green light for the OPC’s construction in Jackson Park.  We strongly agree that key issues remain to be resolved before construction begins.

Echoing assessments by the Sun-Times editorial board and reports in Crain’s Chicago Business, the Tribune board  stated, “there’s still much to do to ensure the center . . . lives up to the pledges it made. . . . [M]any times on these pages, we have asked Obama’s team and City Hall for a more specific road map for that $3 billion in [projected] economic growth. Four years after Obama first announced Jackson Park as the site for his presidential center, we and the rest of the city are still waiting for it.  It’s vital that the [Obama]foundation and City Hall work [to] hit their projections of 700,000 visitors annually, and a robust infusion of retail, dining and lodging revenue for the South Side.”  

As JPW has noted (most recently in the Jan. 24 Update), the taxpayer costs of the current plan for the OPC are high and the promises of extraordinary economic benefits are wishful thinking. The Obama Foundation envisions 700,000 visitors per year for the next decade.  That number was unrealistic when developed in 2017 – 75% greater than any other presidential center has ever realized – and is even more suspect now when the pandemic has totally disrupted tourism and museum attendance for the foreseeable future and when the path to economic recovery is uncertain. With fewer visitors, the economic impact of the OPC on the South Side will be much less, a downsizing exacerbated by the fact that the planned site in Jackson Park is distant from any retail district or space available for new commercial development. The additional reality of the pandemic is its dire impact on the City’s financial straits for years to come.

Given this double whammy, it is necessary to assess and adjust the public costs of the OPC to the City.  There has been no public accounting of the City’s total financial commitment to the Obama Foundation. The tip of the iceberg is the $174 million in federal transportation funds that has been allocated to the City by the State for the extensive road work designed specifically to accommodate the current OPC plan.  Yet the OPC could be built in Jackson Park, on the original site provided for that purpose in 2015, without the disruptive closure of Cornell Drive or east-bound Midway Plaisance and without the costly widening of Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue.  A large portion of the funds from the Federal-Aid Highway Program could then be re-directed to other more urgent transportation needs in the City.  Or, without the loss of any public parkland, the OPC could be moved to another location on the South Side more suitable for commercial development, where such costly public infrastructure work would not be needed.  We note that the taxpayer funds committed just for the OPC-related roadwork constitute a 35% public subsidy for a private development estimated to cost $500 million.  In comparison, the controversial and much debated  public funding offered for the Lincoln Yards development via TIF funds constitutes only a 22% public subsidy.  Such an investment, by a City in a budgetary crisis, deserves closer scrutiny.

JPW shares the Tribune’s hope that the Obama Center will promote prosperity on the South Side as well as recognize the historic achievements of President Obama.  But we also agree wholeheartedly with the Tribune that there are lingering issues to be resolved about the current plan for the OPC.  Having learned the lessons of the City’s parking meter and Skyway agreements, we believe the issues should be resolved now, before ground is broken.  The City and the Obama Foundation must be held accountable for their lofty promises, and that should start with a re-consideration of the current plan.

If you are concerned about these or other unresolved issues about the OPC, we encourage you to speak up and speak out.  See TAKE ACTION on the JPW website.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. 

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  
  • You can contribute via PayPal here(If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 67 E. Madison St., Suite 1817, Chicago  IL 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

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Jackson Park Watch Update, January 24, 2021

Greetings, all,  

We survived the election.  We survived the assault on our country’s Capitol.  We made it through January 20 (whew!).

JPW is alive and well.  Ground-breaking for the OPC is still not going to happen any time soon.  As so we carry on.

Our New Year’s Resolution is to take a hard look at the OPC:  Can the City afford the current plan for the OPC?  And what about all of those promised economic benefits?

Time for a hard look at the OPC’s costs and benefits

2021 has opened with reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and Crain’s Chicago Business pointing to the need for a fresh and detailed examination of the current plan for the Obama Presidential Center.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ recent editorial, while expressing high hopes that the OPC will provide a much needed boost to Chicago and the South Side specifically, also identified lingering questions about the project that must be addressed before it can move forward.  First and foremost is the need to reexamine the public cost of the project, especially the wisdom of allocating $175 million of City-controlled funds for the extensive and expensive roadwork required by the specific footprint of the OPC at a time of a pandemic-fueled fiscal crisis for the City.  The editors also lamented the intrusive impact of the 235-foot museum tower on the landscape of the park and neighborhood and expressed their hope for a re-visioning of that structure 

A lengthy analysis in Crain’s Chicago Business by reporter A.D. Quig focused also on the high cost of the OPC – especially the public cost to be borne by the City, but also the very large amount that must be raised  by the Obama Foundation to meet its obligations (some $500 million for construction and perhaps another $1.5 billion for a sustaining endowment). Additionally, she examined the frequent claims that the OPC would bring exceptionally large economic benefits to adjacent communities and to the City and Cook County generally. As documented in the article, these claims are based on very optimistic projections for numbers of annual visitors in the coming decade, projections that do not reflect visitor numbers or economic impact at other presidential libraries and projections that were made long before the pandemic disrupted tourism and other social activities.   Quig elaborated on her findings in a Crain’s Daily Gist  podcast , so be sure to listen to that discussion if you are not able to read the article online.

JPW’s assessments of costs and benefits

JPW has long been trying to assess the public costs and benefits of the OPC as currently proposed.  That effort has been hampered by the lack of transparency by the City and its failure to give a complete accounting of its financial liabilities and other promises it has made to the Obama Foundation.  We have developed two succinct documents presenting key points, both linked below

  • Appendix 1Will the Obama Presidential Center bring promised economic benefits to the South Side and the City of Chicago? examines whether the projected attendance figures are likely to be realized, the relationship between attendance and claimed benefits for the area, and whether the proposed Jackson Park location will spark new commercial and business development in adjacent areas.
  • Appendix 2: Can the City of Chicago afford the Obama Presidential Center as currently planned? shows in tabular form the costs to and responsibilities of the City and the Obama Foundation for implementation of the current OPC plan, including related road reconfigurations, as defined in the City Ordinance passed on Halloween, 2018.

You will note that these summaries do not attempt to address or quantify the non-economic costs of the OPC (e.g., loss of public parkland, documented adverse impact on cultural landscape, destruction of iconic Olmsted design,  clear-cutting of trees, implementation of the City’s climate action plan, etc.).  That’s another discussion.

The question we raise in common with the Sun-Times and the Crain’s report is not whether the OPC should be built on Chicago’s South Side – which it most certainly should be –  but whether the current plan for the OPC is necessary or even feasible given its high cost and given the current disruptions and unknown future impacts of the pandemic and of climate change on our society and economy.  Now is the time for a hard look at the plan and claims for the OPC.

Please feel free to share these documents widely.  JPW co-presidents Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer would be happy to discuss these issues with media representatives and with interested groups and organizations via zoom.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. 

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  
  • You can contribute via PayPal here(If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update, November 30, 2020

Greetings, all, 

While the national political scene continues to command attention, here is  a reminder of where things stand with regard to the proposal for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. 

Federal Regulatory Reviews Are Still in Process

National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106)

November 24 was the deadline for consulting parties to provide signed approval of the Memorandum of Agreement that will conclude the Section 106 review of the proposal for the OPC.  As previously  noted, JPW (and many other organizations) found the mitigation measures codified by the MOA to be woefully deficient and refused to sign.  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rebuffed all objections and suggestions for  modifications. The final MOA has not yet been issued.

National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)

October 30 was the deadline for public comments on the Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared by the National Park Service (NPS).  Bundled with the NEPA review is the proposal to use the eastern tip of the Midway to replace recreational features in Jackson Park that will be lost to the OPC in order to fulfill the requirements of the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act  (UPARR).  JPW argued strongly that the initial EA is inadequate and flawed and that an additional, more substantive examination – an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – is necessary to fully and accurately evaluate the massive effect of the proposed Obama Presidential Center on Jackson Park and its surroundings.  JPW’s statement on the EA and those of other organizations are available on the JPW website.   After reviewing the written and oral statements it has received, the NPS will either issue a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) or call for the more detailed investigation of an EIS.

Also pending:

  • Under Section 4(f) of the US Department of Transportation Act, FHWA must complete a review to determine if there is any feasible or prudent alternative plan that would avoid or minimize the harm done to Jackson Park by the proposed road changes – changes that would, among other actions,  slice off strips on the east and west sides of the park in order to widen Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue to compensate for the closure of Cornell Drive. While no public comment is required for this review, JPW and other organizations did comment on the draft document that was posted in April.
  • A Section 408 review is required for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to authorize the discharge of road construction debris into Lake Michigan and also to authorize alterations to the just-completed, five-year-long, federally-funded Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Project that focused on rehabilitating the lagoons and areas around Wooded Island. While no public comment is required for this review, JPW and other organizations did comment when USACE posted a public notice in April.

Schedule for Concluding Federal Reviews Uncertain

We presume that the FHWA will soon distribute the finalized MOA, ending the Section 106 portion of the federal reviews without seriously addressing the identified adverse effects on Jackson Park. 

The schedule for the NEPA determination by the National Park Service is uncertain. The Cultural Landscape Foundation, in a recent summary of the Section 106 and NEPA reviews, predicted NPS would report “in the next few months.”  That assumes the NPS will follow a standard process.  In contrast, the City’s website gives “Fall and Winter 2020” as the timeframe for making that NEPA decision as well as for finalizing the Section 4(f) review and beginning the development of plans for UPARR replacement space on the Midway.  The implication is that, whereas a thorough historic resources review took three years, all of the interrelated environmental reviews will be squeezed into a few months rather than accorded the appropriate attention and community engagement required for a project of this scale. 

The Section 4(f) and Section 408 reviews are closely tied to the NEPA review and presumably all will be concluded in rapid sequence, but when the dominoes will fall is unknown.

What does this mean for the construction of the OPC?

The Obama Foundation has recently announced the hiring of a new construction overseer and its aspirational goal of opening the OPC facilities and campus in 2023. It is important to remember, however, that there are certain conditions that must be met before any construction work can begin:

All of the federal reviews must be completed.  Only then can the City and the Obama Foundation conclude the enabling agreements – Master Agreement, Use Agreement, Environmental Remediation and Indemnity Agreement – that were appended as exhibits to the City Ordinance approved on October 31, 2018.  

As with any property transfer, there are due diligence requirements before execution.  Before the City can sign the Master Agreement, the Obama  Foundation must submit a budget with Projected Total Construction Costs for the OPC and must certify that it has in hand actual funds or legally binding commitments for funds equaling or exceeding those costs.  The Foundation must also certify that it has established an endowment dedicated solely to maintaining and operating the OPC for the 99-year term of the agreement.  It was recently reported that the Obama Foundation has raised a little more than half of the construction costs (estimated earlier at $500M).  There has been no information about the establishment of the endowment fund for the OPC or the estimated annual operating budget it must be able to support.  The Foundation is also dependent on fundraising for the salaries of its staff and the Obama Fellows programming it has already begun.

The City also faces funding challenges involving  its infrastructure commitments for the OPC project.  At a time when the City is in a precarious  fiscal state, the total cost of these commitments has not been made public and their place in the City’s budget is not clear. 

Ongoing legal challenges to the OPC

Beyond the financial requirements facing the Obama Foundation and the City as detailed in the city ordinance, the lawsuit by Protect Our Parks challenging the siting of the OPC in Jackson Park continues to cast a shadow over the project.  POP is appealing the ruling of the appellate court and has said it is prepared to utilize any and all appropriate forums, federal and state, to present its argument that the City has violated its public trust fiduciary responsibilities.  While the court actions do not prohibit the start of construction work, they do give potential donors pause.  

Looming also is the possibility of legal action regarding the to-date flawed federal reviews.

What you can do

As the above notes indicate, the OPC train is chugging along, even gaining momentum in the wake of the election and the publication of President Obama’s memoir, but it has not yet reached its destination. The OPC is still a proposal, not yet a reality.   Still to be done:  the federal review process must be conducted properly, and the requirements of the city ordinance must be fulfilled.  

If you remain concerned about the current proposal – its potential impact on Jackson Park and the surrounding communities, its cost to taxpayers, its environmental consequences, its ill-considered traffic plan, or any other aspect of the project – you should continue to make your thoughts and suggestions known to local media outlets and to the City officials who should be held accountable – Mayor,  Aldermen, Commissioners of Transportation and of  Planning and Development.  Contact information is available at Take Action on  the JPW website.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. 

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  
  • You can contribute via PayPal here(If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update- October 27, 2020

Greetings, all,

Flawed Process #1 – NEPA review and its Environmental Assessment

As was noted in the October 12 Updatethe National Park Service initiated a public comment period for an Environmental Assessment of the impact of the proposed construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) on Jackson Park as part of the review mandated by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  The comment period ends October 30.

While JPW is still preparing its comment on the Environmental Assessment, it is clear that, as expected, the review process is designed to short-circuit standard procedures and ensure quick approval of the Obama Presidential Center and related road changes precisely as proposed.  

A few key points: 

  • A massive project like this would normally require a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement, based on analyses prepared by the federal agencies involved, but the federal agencies and the City (which is the applicant for approval) are insisting that this EA will suffice. 
  • The EA falsely relies on the South Lakefront Framework Plan as the validation for the proposed changes to the park, even though the SLFP review and plan came after the OPC and related road changes were announced.  It also deceptively implies that the SLFP is a solid commitment by the Chicago Park District for improvements (.e.g., parking spaces) rather than an unfunded wish list. 
  • The EA uses an improper baseline for evaluation.  In fact, it illogically uses two different No-Action Alternative Baselines – a proper one (Jackson Park as it is today) for the National Park Service action and one that defies common sense (Jackson Park as it would be if the OPC had already been constructed and section of Cornell Drive and the Midway Plaisance already closed) for the Federal Highway Administration action.   By so doing, the EA avoids required consideration of all reasonable alternatives.  Instead, considering only variations on the design presented by the City, it then – surprise! –reaches the foregone conclusion that the City’s current plan is the preferred alternative to minimize or mitigate adverse effects on the environmental footprint.
  • The EA’s attention to key categories of the natural environment such as trees, wildlife habitat, migratory birds, water resources is selective and incomplete. For instance, the EA excludes from consideration the impact of the 235-foot museum tower on the flocks of migratory birds that pass through the park each fall and spring.
  • Also inadequate is the EA’s assessment of the impacts of the proposed changes on the human environment, on the communities surrounding the park and beyond.  Of particular concern is its conclusion that traffic congestion problems will be temporary and, once construction is complete, minimal.  The EA does not look beyond the boundaries of Jackson Park, and ignores the impact of the projected traffic diversions on the adjacent neighborhoods — north, south and west — and dismisses the impact of the loss of 233 parking spaces within the park that will likely both discourage current local users of the park and also inflict new traffic congestion and parking problems on residents’ adjacent to the park.  The socio-economic assessment is also weakened by reliance on out-of-date estimates for the economic impact of the OPC on Jackson Park neighborhoods.  The projections in the EA are based on data and analyses prepared several years ago (pre-pandemic, pre-lakeshore disruptions) and in some cases commissioned by the Obama Foundation. Given the current uncertainties about tourism and other economic drivers due to Covid-19 and given already skyrocketing rents,  new, independent assessments are needed.
  • The EA segments Jackson Part into sections and actions that are excluded from environmental impact reviews  (the OPC campus and related road closures) and sections and projects that can be reviewed (selected parts of the rest of the park).  Among the non-OPC projects excluded from review is the golf course merger project, even though it is included in the SLFP and it would have a major impact on the environment of Jackson Park by its cutting of many more hundreds of trees beyond those marked for removal for the OPC.

JPW will submit a comment statement for the record, making these and other points. If JPW Update readers wish to submit statements for the record on these or other particular topics, see the directions below. However, JPW fully expects this deeply flawed EA to be approved.   That will be a sad rejection of Olmsted’s doctrine that this park (or any park) should be treated and assessed as an organic whole when considering any changes or “improvements.”

  • Written statement to be submitted by regular USPS mail service to Todd Wyatt of the City’s Department of Planning and Development. The submission  must be postmarked by October 30, so mail earlier to be safe.  You may use the print version of the NPS comment form, or just send a standard letter.  

Flawed process #2 — The final whimper for the Section 106 review 

The Section 106 review process that began in December 2017 is finally limping to a conclusion  three years later.  Although the Assessment of Effects report determined that the proposed changes to accommodate the OPC would have serious adverse effects on the distinctive and historic character of the park, the Federal Highway Administration that is responsible for the review has ignored both standard procedures and common sense and  acquiesced entirely to Rahm Emanuel’s decision to give full control of 20 acres of Jackson Park to his friend President Obama for the next 99 years.  Efforts to invoke the Section 106 statute’s requirements to “avoid, minimize, or mitigate” the adverse effects of the OPC on Olmsted’s historic design have been resisted.  It’s the Chicago way — public policy by fiat.   

In a webinar for consulting parties on October 30 the FHWA will formally present  the final version of the  Memorandum of Agreement that concludes the review process.  In spite of major opposition to the draft MOA in August by JPW and many other organizations and individuals, the final document makes no substantive changes, and the FHWA will entertain no additional comments.  

The meagre mitigation actions proposed to compensate for the takeover of  Jackson Park by the OPC and memorialize its 125-year span as an Olmsted-designed recreational respite for South Siders include:  various written reports with photographs and diagrams of Jackson Park today and some unspecified interpretive materials to be developed (perhaps in  digital format, perhaps as signage); the rehabilitation of two long-neglected structures – the English Stone Comfort Station adjacent to the future OPC campus and the Statue of the Republic on Hayes Drive; and the promise that the public will be granted a 45-day review and comment period to consider the City’s controversial plan to install a children’s playground on the eastern tip of the Midway Plaisance as replacement recreational space for the site being taken over by the OPC. 

Needless to say, perhaps, JPW (and many other consulting parties to the Section 106 review) will not be signing the MOA.

Protect Our Parks and the on-going legal record

Protect Our Parks continues to analyze its next steps following a recent federal district court decision that merely affirmed what had previously taken place in the federal circuit court.  Analysis of the proposed Environmental Assessment  (see above) suggests that there may be additional grounds for further legal action.  JPW will continue to follow these various legal threads and keep you posted. 

Prospects for OPC groundbreaking still distant

In the meantime, there are no prospects that construction of the OPC — and the accompanying destruction of key aspects of Jackson Park, including the Women’s Garden, almost 800 trees, and the iconic Olmsted design of Cornell Drive and its intersection with the Midway Plaisance — will begin anytime soon.  Things to watch: City budget problems, rising lake levels, increasing construction costs.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you. 

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.  
  • You can contribute via PayPal here(If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com


Jackson Park Watch Update – October 12, 2020

Greetings, all,

Federal agencies leap ahead to the next review

As many of you may already know, on September 28 the National Park Service initiated a public comment period for an Environmental Assessment of the impact of the proposed construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) on Jackson Park.  This is the first opportunity for public input into the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act ) review process, which is designed to prevent or minimize potential negative effects of federal actions on the natural and human environment.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) is the first step in gathering information about a project in a number of categories, from wildlife to socio-economic factors.  Based on the EA,  the federal agency can reach a ‘Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) in which case the project will move forward according to a preferred alternative defined by the Environmental Assessment.  Or, the EA can reveal that there will indeed be significant environmental impact and that more detailed analysis is needed, in which case the agency will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in order to identify alternatives with better environmental outcomes.

For the OPC project, the Environmental Assessment  covers the roadwork for which Federal Highway Administration funding is needed. It also incorporates an evaluation of  the OPC plan for the National Park Service (NPS) under the terms of the UPARR (Urban Park and Recreation Recovery) Act that funded improvements in Jackson Park in the 1980s and applied permanent restrictions to preserve the park’s recreational facilities. Additionally, the report includes requested actions to be taken  by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in order to facilitate the construction of the OPC.  Public comments on the voluminous Environmental Assessment report (EA) are being accepted through October 30. 

JPW’s quick assessment of the Environmental Assessment

JPW has long been concerned about irregularities and inconsistencies in the conduct of the NEPA review of the OPC, and unfortunately the EA report now before us only confirms that the concerns were fully justified. 

  • Following in the groove of the  Section 106 review – a convoluted and pre-determined sham exercise, this Environmental Assessment skips key facts, is based on an indefensible segmentation of the project under review and on  false assertions about the significance of the South Lakefront Framework Plan (SLFP), and predictably concludes that there will be minimal environmental impact and the preferred alternative is existing plan for closing some roads and widening others, clear-cutting the OPC site and destroying the existing Women’s Garden, and  using the eastern tip of the Midway to as replacement parkland for that consumed by the OPC, among many radical changes. 
  • The clear intent seems to be to move forward quickly without preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the OPC, even though for a major undertaking of this scale and import an EIS is virtually always required. An EIS would expand the analysis beyond the information gathered for the EA, allow for active public collaboration to define the range of issues and potential alternatives to be addressed in the EIS, allow for a minimum of 45 days for public review of a draft EIS, conduct further research and analysis if then warranted, and allow for a 30-day “wait period” after publication of a final EIS before concluding a decision on the proposed action.  Given the gaps and inconsistencies in the EA, a full Environmental Impact Statement is necessary to consider and minimize the impact of the OPC on Jackson Park.  It all depends on defining  “significant impact.” 
  • Similar to the Section 106 review, the federal agencies have established a cumbersome process that seems intended to discourage or limit public input and to yield the pre-determined conclusion endorsing the current OPC proposal. Even allowing for the extraordinary challenges presented by Covid-19, the public comment process for this review seems difficult to navigate and not conducive to productive discussion. Most of all, it seems extremely abbreviated. The still-in-progress Section 106 review began in December 2017.   Yet the time allowed now for reviewing a complex report is barely a month, and the time allowed for oral comments (2 minutes) is absurdly short.  Altogether the process  represents bureaucracy at its most controlling and distant. (See below for more detail about the process.)
  • JPW will be submitting a written statement to help ensure that there is a robust public record of the many deficiencies in the review process and in the terms of the EA, and we will share that statement with you as soon as possible.   We encourage those interested to submit your own brief comments for the record as well, and hope you will share your comments with us.  As with the Section 106 review, there is no commitment by NPS to full transparency, so sharing submissions helps overcome that failure.
  • Among the issues JPW will be addressing are:  the absolute necessity for an EIS; the deceptive reliance on the SLFP as a public process to develop the current proposals for Jackson Park;  the confusion of asserting that the Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement  will resolve negative impacts to Cultural Resources in Jackson Park even before that MOA has been finalized; the assertions that there will be no impact on migratory birds and that the loss of 789 trees is insignificant; the flawed selection of the Midway for a children’s play area.  

What is the review process?

In addition to the content of the Environmental Assessment, the process announced for the required public hearings also raises concerns.

  • Unlike the Section 106 review, the NEPA review will have no direct interchange between federal officials and members of the public – no dialogue, no response to questions or requests for clarification.  Instead, all communication is impersonal and indirect. 
    • The federal agencies present their case via the written report and its appendices, and via a 37-minute YouTube presentation that is available on-line now and that will be repeated at each of the webinar sessions announced for later this week.
    • Also unlike the Section 106 review, no designated organizations are given special status as “consulting parties.”  Rather, individuals may submit comments in one of several formats.
      • Written statement submitted via the NPS on-line site by 11:59 PM Mountain Time on October 30, using a standard on-line form.
      • Written statement to be submitted by regular USPS mail service to Todd Wyatt of the City’s Department of Planning and Development. The submission  must be postmarked by October 30, so (as with your Nov. 3 ballot) mail earlier to be sure.  You may use the print version of the NPS comment form, or send a standard letter. 
      • Oral statement (limited to 2 minutes) made during on-line webinars on either October 12 or October 13 (pre-registration required).
      • Oral statement made in person, by appointment, to a court stenographer on October 15, 3-5 PM, at the South Shore Cultural Center.
  • NPS will consider only one statement per individual, no duplicate submissions (so either speaking at a webinar or submitting a written statement).
  • Even allowing for the extraordinary challenges presented by Covid-19, the public comment process for this review seems difficult to navigate and not conducive to productive discussion. Most of all, it seems extremely abbreviated. The still-in-progress Section 106 review, for instance, began in December 2017.   Yet the time allowed now for reviewing a complex report is less than a month,  and the time allowed for oral comments (2 minutes) is even shorter.  Altogether the process  represents bureaucracy at its most controlling and distant. 

Finally, a couple of observations:

The cover sheet of the Environmental Assessment report includes a note that it cost the NPS $1,372,000 to produce the study.   That’s a useful reminder of how much public funding – federal, state, city – has been and will yet be required to facilitate the construction of the OPC in Jackson Park even though the OPC is touted as a private project to be fully funded with private support.  The expenditure of so much public monies could have been avoided – and valuable public space protected — had the City not embraced the University of Chicago’s proposal to locate the OPC in an historic public park.  Too much has been spent already, but future public expenditures could be minimized if the OPC were to relocate to a non-park site or even adjust its footprint in Jackson Park.  Given the fiscal challenges confronting all levels of government now, financial restraint seems not only wise but necessary.

As you review the complexities of the Environmental Assessment, you will appreciate the astute observations of John Clement in a recent letter to the Hyde Park Herald.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here(If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – September 17, 2020

Greetings, all,

Federal Review “Far From Complete”

A spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration says an agreement to address the documented adverse effects of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) on Jackson Park “is still a long way off,” according to a recent report by Block Club Chicago.  The draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)  that was presented by the FHWA in July to outline various “mitigation” steps elicited widely divergent and strong reactions from the consulting parties to the Section 106 review. JPW has posted its own and several other statements opposing the proposed MOA.  Now we learn that the federal, state and local agencies whose formal approval is needed to conclude the Section 106 review process “are still hashing out their differences” and that reaching an agreement this fall is no longer certain. 

In spite of that uncertainty, the City and the Park District have jumped the gun and taken a first step to initiate work on one of the mitigation measures that is proposed in the draft MOA.  Last week a draft ordinance was submitted to the City Council to authorize the expenditure of up to $100,000 of City funds for “field documentation” of the existing  areas of the Park that would be affected by construction related to the OPC – the site of the OPC campus, roadways throughout the Park, and the east end of the Midway Plaisance where a new replacement area for active recreation is proposed.   Assuming standard procedure is followed, the draft ordinance will be reviewed by the Committee on Budget and Government Operations on September 30 and presented to the full City Council for approval on October 31. While $100,000 is not much given the size of the City’s budget deficit, under current circumstances it is money that could be better used elsewhere.

Can Chicago still afford the OPC?

The proposed ordinance cited above is but one more example of the poorly documented commitment of City funds to support the construction of the OPC in Jackson Park.  As new public costs relating to the Section 106 review are emerging, JPW has noted that the circumstances framing the proposal for the OPC have changed radically in 2020 and a reassessment of the project is required.   The daunting financial challenges posed to Chicago by the impact of COVID-19 on City revenue streams and the parallel impact of rising lake levels were recently outlined by JPW co-president Brenda Nelms in an interview with the Chicago Reporter.

Protect Our Parks stands tall

On  September 4, Protect Our Parks filed a petition to have the full U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals review the recent ruling that denied POP’s standing to file a federal suit against the City for its transfer of  a portion of Jackson Park to the Obama Foundation.  Herb Caplan explained POP’s position and his confidence in its petition in a recent interview with Carol Marin on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.  POP believes it has a rock-solid case on the standing issue and is prepared to pursue the issue on all available judicial fronts, federal and state. 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here(If you encounter difficulties with PayPal, please let us know.)
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – August 28, 2020

Greetings, all,

Significant opposition to proposed Section 106 MOA  

In our last Update we shared JPW’s statement rejecting the draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) proposed by the Federal Highway Administration as the conclusion of the Section 106 review of the proposal for siting the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.  Having seen strong statements similarly refusing to sign off on that draft from numerous other well-known and respected consulting parties, we asked FHWA whether these statements would be publicly released.  Upon learning that the answer was no, JPW has now posted these on the JPW website  to help make clear the strength and breadth of the opposition to this tortured and completely inadequate proposed MOA.  It remains to be seen if the FHWA will pay heed to these strong and legitimate voices  as it prepares a revised version of the MOA.  There is no schedule set for that revision. 

Protect Our Parks to persevere

On August. 21, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the lawsuit filed by Protect Our Parks (POP) against the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago, challenging the transfer of public park land in Jackson Park to the Obama Foundation for the proposed Obama Presidential Center

While this is couched in legalese, these few things are clear: 

  • The POP lawsuit is not dead. The Circuit Court focused on the procedural  issue of what aspects of the suit could be heard in federal court.  In one or perhaps multiple venues, federal and state,  POP will continue to pursue hearings on the merits of the issues it has raised. 
  • Because the Seventh Circuit Court remanded the case back to the District Court, Judge Blakey’s original findings are moot.
  • If the federal reviews now underway ultimately approve the OPC/road changes as proposed (which seems sadly all too likely), POP has legal grounds to challenge any attempt by the Obama Foundation to begin construction while litigation is proceeding.

In a statement issued on August 27, POP stressed that it fully supports the construction of an Obama Presidential Center on the South Side in any location that is not inside of an historic and dedicated public park and that POP had particularly advocated for the privately owned site adjacent to Washington Park.  

New forces in play

Separate from the POP lawsuit and from the federal reviews, JPW thinks that externalities such as the direct costs of the OPC to the City, the effects on the lakefront of apparently relentless climate-change-driven lake-level rise, and the fallout effects of COVID on tourism in Chicago mean that it is quite unclear whether and when construction of the OPC will begin and exactly what form it would take at that time.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch.

Advance Notice:  It seems possible that, due to administrative issues, JPW may

no longer be able to accept contributions via PayPal after September 15.

We will keep you posted.

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch
www.jacksonparkwatch.org
jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – August 9, 2020

Greetings, all,

Dismal MOA and flawed Section 106 process cast cloud over OPC

As Update readers know, the federally mandated Section 106 (Historic Preservation) review of the proposal for siting the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park began in December 2017 and is now in its final phase.  The Federal Highway Administration, which is responsible for managing the review, and the City of Chicago, which is the applicant for federal approval, have drafted a Memorandum of Agreement to document the actions to be taken to “mitigate” the severe adverse effects that the project would have on the Park. 

On August 7, JPW submitted the following statement to Matt Fuller of the FHWA (with copies to City, State and Federal officials involved in the review), summarizing our previously expressed objections to the MOA and to the Section 106 review process.  Many other organizations and individuals have expressed similar or additional concerns.   

A selection of the detailed statements that JPW submitted to document these key concerns over the past three years can be found on the JPW website.

August 7, 2020

Jackson Park Watch to Matt Fuller, Federal Highway Administration

Given the woefully inadequate nature of the draft MOA presented on July 16, Jackson Park Watch will not be a signatory to the document. The draft  Memorandum of Agreement does absolutely nothing to address the well-documented adverse effects on Jackson Park of the current plan for the OPC and the road changes it requires. It does nothing to preserve a central portion of Jackson Park as it has stood for over a century, defined by an Olmstedian vision of open spaces and natural areas. It does nothing to preserve the distinctive circulation pattern laid out by Olmsted or to preserve the historic Perennial Garden/Women’s Garden that crowns the intersection of the park with the  Midway Plaisance.  Despite today’s heightened awareness of the civic importance of outdoor space and public parkland, the draft MOA does nothing to provide for new parkland to replace the 19.3 acres that would be lost to the OPC

This completely dismal and inadequate “agreement” is the product of a process characterized by tortured interpretations and misrepresentations.  As a result, the proposed MOA is and will continue to be tainted by a strong sense of illegitimacy, a sense that will cast a lingering cloud over the OPC.  For the record, we offer a few key examples of how the process came to be so fully compromised.

Deliberate misrepresentation of the South Lakefront Framework Plan. JPW has repeatedly pointed out the deceptive use by the City and the FHWA of the Park District’s South Lakefront Framework Plan  (SLFP) to assert that the OPC and road changes were required by prior City planning.  The record is very clear  that the SLFP planning process was launched only after the plans for the OPC and road changes were completed and announced, and that any review, comment, or critique of those plans was off limits during that process.  To the contrary, the planning documents utilized in the public meetings for the SLFP process presumed that the OPC site plan and related road changes were unchangeable. 

Tortured claim that “City action” is exempt from review. The  FHWA accepted and promoted the false narrative that the “City action” — to approve of and facilitate the construction of the OPC and the related road changes  — was fully separate from and independent of any approval and funding actions by federal agencies, despite ample documented evidence to the contrary.  This fiction was then used to declare that, even though the Assessment of Effects report  found that the plans for the OPC and related road changes would have severe adverse effects on Jackson Park, they were exempt from the standard federal review.

Use of improper baseline for evaluation.  As a matter of common sense and logic, when seeking to determine the impact of a proposed action on an existing entity – building, road, park – the evaluation assesses the impact of the proposed action on the entity in its current state. However, the FHWA insisted on an illogical approach in setting the “baseline” starting point for evaluating the effects of the OPC and road changes on Jackson Park.  Rather than taking the Park as it stands today as the starting point for the evaluation, the FHWA chose to evaluate the foreseeable impacts of the proposed changes on the post-construction Park  — the Park as it would be after the OPC is constructed and the planned road changes put in place.  By using this contorted approach, the FHWA avoided conducting a full and legitimate evaluation of the anticipated impact of the proposed OPC and road changes on the Park.

Manipulation of requirements for resolution of adverse effects  Continuing the convoluted and improperly executed Section 106 review process, the FHWA manipulated an important concluding step – development of proposals to resolve the adverse effects.  Substituting controlled webinars for substantive engagement with consulting parties,  it skipped over the legal requirement to consider proposals to avoid and minimize the adverse effects, arguing ex post facto that such considerations had somehow been embedded in the OPC plans from the beginning. Further, in presenting the results of a City-run survey, the FHWA simply excluded from consideration numerous proposals for avoidance or minimization that had been submitted.

In sum, through these and myriad other improper actions large and small, the Section 106 federal review of the OPC and related road changes in Jackson Park has been rendered impotent, setting a precedent that threatens to undermine important federal regulatory protections that have served well to preserve historic and environmentally significant sites for over five decades. 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – July 30, 2020

Greetings, All,

Section 106 ending with a whimper

JPW had no expectations that the July 16 webinar run by the FHWA and the City as part of the Section 106 review would result in any substantive change in the trajectory to rubber stamp the proposed plan for the Obama Presidential Center, and those low expectations were fully realized.  

The draft Memorandum of Agreement  presented to consulting parties at the webinar does absolutely nothing to address the well-documented adverse effects on Jackson Park of the current plan for the OPC and the road changes it requires. It does nothing to preserve a central portion of Jackson Park as it has stood for over a century, defined by its Olmstedian vision of open spaces and natural areas. The Women’s Garden would be dismembered, and the distinctive Olmsted circulation pattern would be eradicated. There would be no provision for new parkland to replace the 19.3 acres that would be lost despite how much COVID has heightened our awareness of the importance of outdoor space and public parkland. Instead this improperly manipulated review has skipped over mandatory consideration of measures to avoid or minimize these adverse impacts, and recommends only meaningless “mitigation” steps that are in fact a slap in the face of those who treasure the Park as it is.  The Cultural Landscape Foundation  characterized the MOA terms as a swap of invaluable, historic  parkland for “signage” – abandoning the real for the virtual —  and highlighted, with disappointment, the unexplained decision by the  Illinois State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) to endorse the draft MOA, in a complete reversal of its previous assessment.   

Comments on the draft MOA may be submitted until August 10.  Some additional, as yet undefined review of a final MOA will follow, but our expectations are again low. 

As previously stated, JPW will not be a signatory to the MOA as it now stands.  Beyond recognizing the gross inadequacies of the draft MOA, we have also come to recognize that the whole context for evaluation of the proposed OPC has now changed.

Time to rethink the plan for the OPC

Along with issues of transparency, survey ethics, openness to public input and badly flawed review procedures, the Section 106 process has failed because it is being conducted as if the social, cultural, and economic landscapes that existed when the OPC was first proposed six years ago are still intact. Chicago, along with the rest of the U.S., has been radically changed by the coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the sudden onset of a severe economic recession. We don’t know what the future will look like, but we can be sure that it won’t look like it did in 2014. With that in mind, we strongly recommend that there be a fundamental rethinking of the entire OPC project in order to assure its full success.

Although we urgently hope that we will conquer the coronavirus sooner rather than later, we don’t know how the practices that we’ve all taken for granted will carry over into the future.  In particular, will large-scale tourism and packed public venues such as museums be common again? Remember, the large economic benefits that are attributed to the OPC depend upon the very optimistic attendance estimates prepared by the Obama Foundation’s consultants. The pandemic experience casts doubt that there would be 625,000-760,000 visitors annually (a projection that was already more than twice the attendance recorded at any other presidential library or museum over the past forty years). If more people explore the OPC digitally rather than in-person, the economic benefits are, by definition, reduced accordingly.

Most critically, the pandemic has exposed the crucial need for health and social services in Black communities around Chicago, and at the same time has delivered a body blow to the finances of both the City and its residents.  At a time when the City’s budget resources are stretched very thin and will be for the foreseeable future, should the City spend over $200 million to close Cornell Drive, reconfigure other roadways, and commit to the greater unquantified costs for environmental remediation and mitigation measures to accommodate the current plan for the OPC?  In a time of severe financial strain, when the City projects a $700 million deficit, attention should be given to identifying the significant expenses that could be minimized or avoided by rethinking the siting of the OPC.  Reducing the cost of the project by moving it could also accelerate the date by which the Center can open.

In addition to the new economic realities, the lockdowns undertaken during the pandemic have made all of us more aware of the critical value of our public parks as safe and essential spaces to explore natural settings and promote our individual and civic health. Given that new awareness, is it wise to sacrifice a core portion of Jackson Park, when we could have both the park and the OPC if its site were modified or moved? Mayor Lightfoot has called for new (and very needed) investments in underserved communities on the South and West Side. Preserving Jackson Park, by reducing the OPC footprint or rebuilding it on a non-parkland site will multiply the investment in our South Side communities. 

Beyond the immediate and lingering social and economic impact of the pandemic, the current OPC plan should be reassessed  also in the context of  the environmental changes that have now become so evident. Record high levels in Lake Michigan, with predictions of higher levels to come, call into question the practicality of removing Cornell Drive as a major traffic connector for the South Side and beyond.  In particular, the proposed expansion of Lake Shore Drive to accommodate the significantly increased traffic resulting from the closure of Cornell Drive would take place directly adjacent to the rising lake itself, raising the prospect of regular traffic disruptions as higher lake levels combine with the increased frequency of heavy storms.   Climate change does not seem to have been part of the assessment when the OPC roadway plans were developed; it must be considered now.  Similarly, the rising lake levels and the higher water table that follows in tandem have raised questions concerning the wisdom of constructing a massive 235’ museum tower and an underground parking garage immediately adjacent to the  West Lagoon in Jackson Park, originally itself a marshy area, or the feasibility of draining the wetland on the eastern tip of the Midway Plaisance.

Given the convergence of these new challenges – financial, social, environmental, we believe now is the time for a reevaluation of the current plan for the Obama Presidential Center, just as other development plans, private and public, are being reexamined in light of the current crises. The urgency of these challenges cannot be ignored.  The cost to demilitarize the police system, to strengthen the public schools, and to expand public health programs to eliminate racial injustices will be staggering, but it must be paid.  Similarly, the problem of lakefront erosion must be addressed without delay and before other investments can be made. Support for the OPC on the South Side is almost universal and community expectations are high.  But to fully realize those expectations, the City and the Obama Foundation must remove their blinkers and rethink the plan for the OPC within the context of this new era.

JPW Evolves

Given that the Section 106 federal review of the OPC is nearly at an end, and in keeping with her move to Michigan, Margaret  Schmid is stepping back from her active role in JPW.  As she does so, she wants to offer heartfelt thanks to all who have worked with and contributed to JPW in these recent years.  She of course will continue to follow further developments with great interest.

To try to fill Margaret’s big shoes, Ray Lodato and Jack Spicer have joined the JPW board of directors and will work with Brenda Nelms to monitor the many proposals for Jackson Park.  JPW’s guiding principles remain:

  • Transparency in decision-making about the Park – no backroom deals
  • Meaningful community input on major changes to the Park – no top-down decisions
  • Preservation of the Park as a democratic public space – priority to local uses and local users, with maximum grass, trees, and open space
  • Development of one comprehensive plan for the entire Park  – forestall its division into unrelated segments

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

·         You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 

·         You can contribute via PayPal here.

·         You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com

Jackson Park Watch Update – July 13, 2020

Greetings, all,

Dismal MOA signals end of Section 106 process

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued the long-delayed draft Memorandum of Agreement, the final step in the Section 106 (Historic Preservation) federal review of the impact on Jackson Park of the proposed Obama Presidential Center and related road changes.    

A Consulting Parties’ webinar to discuss the MOA will take place July 16.  The draft MOA has been posted on the City’s website so that, in addition to formal Consulting Parties, the public may review and submit comments during the comment period that will close on August 10. Unfortunately, but typically and tellingly, instructions for submitting comments have not been posted on the City’s website, so here is that information: Submit comments on the MOA to FHWA (Matt.Fuller@dot.gov) with a copy to the City of Chicago (todd.wyatt@cityofchicago.org).  Sadly, JPW sees no reason to believe that critical comments or questions will have any impact.

Although JPW had no hopes for the MOA given the FHWA’s practices to date, it is nonetheless striking that the proposed terms of the MOA signal the end of the defining form and feel of Jackson Park as it has stood for over a century.  Key portions of the circulation patterns designed by Frederick Law Olmsted will be destroyed.  The Women’s Garden will be dismembered.  The community will not be compensated with replacement parkland for the 19.3 acres of Jackson Park that will be occupied by the OPC for the next 99 years.  Hundreds of healthy mature trees will be clear cut.  And more.  JPW will not be signing off on the draft MOA.

JPW will send out a complete commentary and analysis after the webinar session.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS!

Thanks to all who have supported us financially.  As always, we will welcome your contributions.  If you have any questions about contributing, please contact us at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com and we will get back to you.

You can contribute in three ways:

·         You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 

·         You can contribute via PayPal here.

·         You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

As always, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid 

Jackson Park Watch

www.jacksonparkwatch.org

jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com