Community Concerns


  • Given that the Obama Library will be located in Jackson Park, all outstanding plans of Project 120 should be shelved and a comprehensive review of Jackson Park should be undertaken to understand the impact of the Obama Library on the Park as a whole.
  • While welcoming the Obama Library to Jackson Park, Jackson Park Watch believes that the Library should not be built at the cost of parkland for the public.


  • TRANSPARENCY: Jackson Park is a public park, yet decisions about major changes to the park have been made without public review. The Park District entered into a secretive Memorandum of Understanding with Project 120 (July 2014 MOU) that appears to give that organization surprising leeway to reshape large portions of Jackson Park. The Park District has never revealed how it would review and accept, reject, or alter Project 120’s proposals, and practice to date indicates there is secretive approval process out of the public eye. The Yoko Ono sculpture installation has proceeded with no community input, no environmental assessment, and no traceable record of any decisions by the Park District Board of Commissioners itself. With the addition of the Obama Library to the Park, it is essential that there be no such side arrangements for Project 120’s proposal for a pavilion/music venue or for the Obama Library itself. It is imperative there be an open process to consider plans for the Park as a whole. How will the development, review and approval of changes to Jackson Park be managed over the next five years and beyond?
  • COMMUNITY INPUT: In response to serious questions raised by community members, Park District CEO Michael Kelly and Alderman Leslie Hairston committed on May 31 to developing a further process for community review of Project 120’s proposals. With the addition of the Obama Library, that process must necessarily be expanded to address proposals for the park as a whole.   In this expanded conversation, how will the community of park users be engaged in planning for the changes that will ripple across the park?


The community concerns articulated here focus on the existing Project 120 proposals, on what little is known about the plans for the Obama Library, and on the broader issues both initiatives have raised.

  • THE PHOENIX PAVILION: Project 120 proposes to build a “Phoenix Pavilion” with an attached outdoor music venue to be located east of Darrow Bridge on the existing parking lot and the neglected Music Court. The name refers to an earlier, smaller structure located on the Wooded Island, but its proposed location and size are without historical precedent. Where did this idea originate, and with what goals? Who would control, operate, staff, and maintain the facility? Is there a viable business plan? Would this amount to another privatization of public park space? Is this mainly about revenue-generation?
  • “SKY LANDING”: While it is unclear who owns the sculpture, who will maintain it, and who is paying for the installation, Project 120 plans to install “Sky Landing,” a permanent piece by Yoko Ono, on the Wooded Island in fall 2016.  The installation will involve the incorporation of the sculpture into a reconfigured space for the Osaka Garden (to be renamed the Garden of the Phoenix) and likely to be marketed as an event space. What impact will that have on access to the Osaka Japanese Garden for local park users? On the integrity of the Japanese Garden itself? Does it make sense to install a piece by a celebrity artist in a location that, as long as the Darrow Bridge is closed, has access to neither adequate parking nor public restrooms?
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: The Wooded Island is a designated nature sanctuary. It is a major haven for migrating and local birds and other wildlife as well as the location of the Osaka Japanese Garden. What will be the impact on the nature sanctuary of the installation of “Sky Landing” on the Wooded Island itself and of the proposed pavilion nearby? The pavilion’s glass-walled design would be a major hazard for birds; the congestion around the pavilion and the new sculpture would negatively impact wildlife and local park-users seeking quiet on the Wooded Island and in the beauty of the Osaka Garden.
  • NOISE:   Project 120’s proposed outdoor music venue would produce significant ambient noise that would negatively impact not only wildlife but also humans in and around the Park. Outdoor music performances in other parks – for example, Montrose Park by the lake – have resulted in major noise pollution over a wide area. Jackson Park already experiences a fair amount of outdoor music each summer, ranging from the organized Chosen Few event to numerous family reunions and church picnics; residents and park users think this is ample.
  • PARKING: Construction of the proposed pavilion would result in the loss of a significant number of public parking spaces at the same time that installation of the Yoko Ono sculpture will increase the demand for parking.       There is limited or only very pricey parking in adjoining areas. How would the loss of the current parking spaces impact access for local residents to the Wooded Island and adjacent areas of the park? How about those tourists who may wish to visit the Yoko Ono sculpture? More broadly, the construction of the Obama Library requires a comprehensive plan for traffic patterns and parking throughout the park.
  • ALTERNATIVES: If a goal of the pavilion/music venue proposal is to provide a center with displays and restrooms for visitors, why not improve the existing Park District restroom facilities in the area? Why not collaborate with the Museum of Science and Industry to develop displays about the history of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition and of the Wooded Island?
  • ATHLETIC AND RECREATIONAL FACILITIES: The Obama Library will displace the athletic field/track that serves Hyde Park Academy High School directly across the street and that is used by many others as well. The Mayor and others have said it will be relocated. Where exactly will it be relocated? Will it be convenient to current users? As these questions are being decided, it is critically important that the relocation does not consume additional open parkland. Over the past century, diverse recreational facilities have been added for Jackson Park users, including tennis courts, a golf course and driving range, soccer fields and basketball courts, which are well used by area residents today. We know that outdoor recreation is vital for well-being.       How would Project 120 and the Obama Library plans address these facilities? How will these important outdoor spaces be retained?