What to know about the Obama Presidential Center
The Obama Presidential Center represents a historic opportunity for Chicago: a chance to build a world-class museum and public gathering space that celebrates our nation’s first African American President and First Lady, steps away from where he began his career, where she was raised, and where—together—they made their home. Not only will the Center generate billions of dollars of economic opportunity and help reconnect and revitalize Jackson Park, it will also serve as a reminder to young visitors—from around the city and from around the world—that their potential is limitless.
The Obama Presidential Center Museum will celebrate our shared history.
- The Museum will tell the story of Barack Obama’s historic path to the presidency framed within the larger story of American history, including a spotlight on Chicago’s prominent role in the civil rights movement and its history of community engagement.
- The Museum will focus on President Obama’s eight years in office, featuring exhibits about the events, policies, challenges, and accomplishments of the Obama presidency, rooted in the larger discussion about democracy and the role of government that our nation has been having since its founding.
- Like other presidential museums, the Museum will collaborate with the National Archives to feature a rich array of artifacts that help tell the story of the President and First Lady.
Jackson Park is the right home for the Obama Presidential Center.
- The South Side is the community where Mrs. Obama was raised, where President Obama got his start in organizing and politics, and where they started their family.
- Building in the disconnected section of Jackson Park allows the Center to continue in the rich Chicago tradition of museums in the parks, provides greater connectivity to Museum Campus South, and offers opportunity for partnership and collaboration with institutions like the DuSable Museum, Hyde Park Academy, and the YMCA.
- Jackson Park was envisioned as a world-class public space. But the park’s greenspaces and lagoons are interrupted by thoroughfares and traffic, which limits its use. The Center’s plan reverses that trend, uniting disjointed spaces back into the cohesive, walkable, and iconic public park Frederick Olmsted envisioned.
- The Center site will occupy less than 20 acres of 547-acre Jackson Park and its buildings will occupy approximately 2.5 acres. With road improvements being considered, the plan is park positive. The Center’s plan will result in a net gain of 3.7 acres of parkland.
- The Center’s plan in Jackson Park allows us to restore a beloved asset in the community and embrace Olmsted’s principles of connectivity to the Lake and appreciation of the Lagoon, providing more ways for people to use and enjoy the park.
Working with the community, we are designing a campus for public benefit.
- The Center is designed both as a place to honor our shared history and to connect people through different community spaces. The majority of the Center’s campus will be free and open to the public.
- The campus will include a free observation deck; a branch of the Chicago Public Library; an auditorium; children’s recreation areas and a sledding hill; new walking and biking trails; a public plaza for community gatherings, performances and celebrations; and a program, activity, and athletic center.
The Obama Foundation is building an economic engine for the South Side.
- In its first decade, the Obama Presidential Center is expected to bring $3.1 billion in economic impact to the Chicagoland area.
- The Center will generate an estimated 5,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs.
- Over 700,000 visitors are projected to visit the South Side every year.
- The design will activate the street and increase opportunities for local businesses to develop on Stony Island corridor.
- 50% of the subcontracts for the construction of the Center will be given to diverse firms.
We will be transparent and collaborative.
- The Foundation has held eight public meetings and hundreds of stakeholder and resident meetings.
- Thousands of comments received online and in person have led to many changes in the plans for the Center—including updates to the location of the parking facility.
- Earlier this summer, the Center plans were approved by the Chicago Plan Commission, Zoning Committee and the full City Council with a vote of 47-1.
Your Questions Answered
From public meetings to surveys on Obama.org, we’ve heard from hundreds of people all across the city about Obama Presidential Center design and development process. Here are some responses to frequent questions that we’ve heard from you. If you have any other questions you’d like to ask, you can ask them here.
Will you be signing the Community Benefits Agreement?
The Foundation shares the goals of many in the community who want to ensure that the economic activity stimulated by the Foundation’s investment in the OPC in Jackson Park is experienced across the South Side and City of Chicago, that these communities are enhanced and supported, that families are able to stay in their homes, and that our workforce is representative of the great diversity of our City. However, we do not believe a Community Benefits Agreement is the right tool. Our mission is to value and lift up all community voices, not just a few, and in partnership to create positive change, not on opposite sides of the table. The community is the Foundation’s partner in the development of the OPC. A community benefits agreement would elevate a few groups, and the Foundation is committed to engaging with all of the community, not just one or two groups. In order to achieve our and the community’s goals of diversity and inclusion, the Foundation is working with partners to build a diverse pipeline of talent that will serve not just our project, but developments around the city.
What kind of safety measures are planned with the widening of Stony Island? Will there be stop signs, or a light?
We’re committed to creating a campus that is safe and welcoming to residents on the South Side and visitors. We are continuing to work with Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) in supporting their work in evaluating and designing modifications to Stony Island. CDOT will ensure that the appropriate use of planted medians, crosswalks, stop signs and traffic signals are placed where necessary to ensure safe and satisfactory pedestrian and vehicle travel.
How do you plan to fund the construction and operations of the OPC?
The operations and construction of the Obama Presidential Center will be entirely funded by private donations.
What is the Obama Foundation’s involvement with the planned golf course?
The golf course is a separate project unrelated to the OPC. Our plans are limited to the area bounded by 62nd Street to the south, Stony Island to the west, North Midway Plaisance to the north, and the West Lagoon to the east.
How can we (the community) be involved in the planning process?
The Foundation regularly convenes public meetings across the area to gather input from local community members, leaders, and organizations. Because of your input, we’ve reconsidered and reconceived various aspects of the campus design and details of the Obama Presidential Center--and we will continue to collect feedback in the months ahead. To get the latest information about meetings and opportunities to engage in the process, you can sign up for our email list here.
What kind of programming will be available at the Center?
The OPC will be a global hub for community convenings, recreation, and learning, as well as a place for storytelling and story making. It will include a collection of public buildings, a Plaza, dynamic play areas for children, a community garden, and other spaces designed to inspire community members and visitors to collaborate, engage, and most importantly, take a piece of their experience back into their community to create positive change.
"I have concerns about parking on the Midway Plaisance..."
After listening to feedback from community members, the parking facility will no longer be located on the Midway Plaisance and will instead be housed in an underground location on our campus within Jackson Park. This covered parking location will have entry and exit access from Stony Island Avenue. We continue to believe more can be done with the park at the Midway to make the space more accessible and usable for the local community. We hope to partner with the many stakeholders who engaged in our discussion around parking to identify ways to strengthen the park.
How will the Obama Presidential Center provide economic development opportunities?
We anticipate the Obama Presidential Center to bring numerous economic benefits to the area, including: