Our Progress

The Obama Foundation is committed to ensuring that the community that has given so much to the Obamas benefits directly from the Obama Presidential Center. In May 2018, we unveiled our Community Commitments, a living document that outlines these efforts.

Check out our progress on our commitments below. We will continue to update these as we hit more milestones. You can access the full text of our Community Commitments here.

Workforce Development & Jobs

Lakeside Alliance opened a South Side Resource Center.



Lakeside Alliance, the construction manager for the Obama Presidential Center, officially opened a Resource Center on October 29, 2018, for community members to learn more about job opportunities and updates on the OPC project. The center is located at 1750 E. 71st Street, sharing space with the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Workforce Development & Jobs

The Obama Foundation hired a construction diversity monitoring and reporting firm to ensure local, diverse hiring, and continued transparency and accountability throughout the development and construction process of the OPC.



In June 2018, the Obama Foundation announced the selection of Jacqueline Gomez as its Director of Real Estate Inclusion and Ernest R. Sawyer Enterprises, Inc. (ERS) as its Diversity Consultant.

Workforce Development & Jobs

We hired a Director of Strategic Sourcing & Business Diversity.



In August 2018, the Obama Foundation hired Eric Foster as Director of Strategic Sourcing & Business Diversity, focused on developing relationships with diverse businesses in order to connect them with opportunities to work with the Obama Foundation.

Workforce Development & Jobs

Lakeside Alliance, construction manager for the Obama Presidential Center, will host Career & Training Opportunity Fairs across City College campuses.



From career fairs to ward meetings across Chicago, Lakeside Alliance has met with hundreds of people around Chicago since it was selected in January 2018.

Lakeside hosted its first career fair in May 2018 at Olive-Harvey College and its second fair in October 2018 at Malcolm X College.

Lakeside will host its third fair in February 2019 at Wilbur Wright College.

Workforce Development & Jobs

Lakeside Alliance will travel across Chicago to meet with local neighborhood groups, sharing information about job opportunities on the OPC project.



Lakeside has launched a 50-ward road show to meet with residents from all parts of Chicago. Already, its team has engaged with residents in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 20th, 28th, 29th, and 37th wards.

Workforce Development & Jobs

We will prioritize diversity in our professional services.



In August 2018, the Obama Foundation published its first Annual Report. In 2017, the Obama Foundation spent more than $6 million with more than 70 diverse businesses across sectors including legal, digital, insurance, and design among others. A quarter of that—$1.5 million—was with Chicago-based companies. We are looking to increase that number steadily as we grow.

Workforce Development & Jobs

We will maintain a database to track interest from diverse professional service providers and host certification fairs.



As a diverse vendor, you can submit your interest in working with the Obama Foundation through our website by clicking here. And, as part of our efforts, in 2018, we also joined the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, which helps certify, develop, connect, and advocate for minority suppliers.

Youth Programming

We will provide free civic leadership training opportunities to the young emerging leaders of Chicago.



This summer, the Obama Foundation launched the Community Leadership Corps, a program designed to help young people aged 18-25 create the world they want to live in by working to address an issue in their community. We held in-person trainings and gatherings in Chicago in June, August, and November 2018.

One of our CLC Chicago leaders hosted the first day of the 2018 Foundation Summit in November 2018.

Youth Programming

The MBK Alliance Community Challenge Competition invested $1 million in Chicago to assist organizations supporting boys and young men of color.



In November 2018, MBK Alliance announced the selection of five Chicago organizations as part of a national competition called the Community Challenge, to accelerate impact for boys and young men of color partly through working with communities on mentorship and youth violence prevention programs. The Foundation jointly awarded Youth Guidance and Thrive Chicago an MBK Community Chicago Impact grant of $500,000, with four other organizations being named Chicago Seeds, receiving at least $50,000 each for two years. Those organizations include Lawndale Christian Legal Center, New Life Centers of Chicagoland, South Shore Drill Team & Performing Arts Ensemble, and BUILD, Inc.

Youth Programming

We will partner with public schools to support civics education and leadership development.



In December 2018, the Foundation announced a new joint award with Chicago Public Schools to celebrate and honor Chicago students, schools, educators, and community partners who have made a powerful impact in their communities through civic engagement and action. The awards will open for applications in January, and the award recipients will be named toward the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

In June 2018, the Obama Foundation invited students from a local CPS school to participate as panelists in the Community Conversation in June 2018.

The Obama Foundation announced Dominique Jordan Turner, President and CEO of Chicago Scholars, a local non-profit organization committed to college access, success, and leadership development for Chicago’s youth, as an inaugural Obama Foundation Fellow in early 2018.

In October 2017, Mrs. Obama hosted Prince Harry at Hyde Park Academy High School to meet with college bound seniors.

The Obama Foundation hosted our inaugural Training Day at the Gary Comer Youth Center in 2017. In addition, the Obama Foundation has an ongoing partnership with Gary Comer youth to deliver weekly treats from their culinary program to the Obama Foundation’s headquarters.

Youth Programming

We built a partnership with the Chicago Public Library.



In May 2018, the Obama Foundation, the City of Chicago, and the Chicago Public Library announced that a new public library branch will be located at the future Obama Presidential Center, bringing a new neighborhood anchor and the best of Chicago Public Library programming and resources to surrounding South Side communities.

Youth Programming

In Spring 2018, the Foundation announced its partnership with Urban Alliance for the Obama Youth Job Corps with Hyde Park Academy serving as one of the flagship schools.



The Obama Foundation is proud to continue partnering with Urban Alliance for our second year. OYJC begins workforce readiness training starting in the 10th grade. By the time students are in the 12th grade, they will get to participate in a 10-month, paid, professional internship through UA’s flagship High School Internship Program, which combines work experience with job skills training, one-on-one mentoring, and comprehensive support services during and after the internship.

Global Connections

We will bring our global programming to Chicago in greater scale than ever before.



In August 2018, we hosted 37 Obama Foundation Scholars in Chicago for a week. The Obama Scholars learned about the city’s rich history and met with local community leaders focused on the history of civic work and community development in Chicago. They also participated in a service project in Englewood. The Obama Scholars also participated in a tour of the South Side. The visit concluded with an intimate discussion on mentorship and building community with two of President Obama’s own mentors at Lilydale Baptist Church.

Twenty-five of the Obama Foundation Scholars are based at University of Chicago and will have continual opportunities for meaningful service and to learn from leaders across Chicago during their year on the South Side.

Global Connections

We will create a global network connecting leaders from the South and West sides to influencers from around the world.



At the 2018 Obama Foundation Summit, more than 150 of the 650 participants were from Chicago including 100 young leaders from the Community Leadership Corps and some of our neighbors in Chicago. The Summit brought together young leaders from the Obama Leaders Africa program and program participants from more than 40 countries and all the Foundation’s programming.

Economic Impact

We will use our convening power to help create a strategy around vacant land and responsible affordable housing.



As a new anchor institution on the South Side, the Foundation is actively supporting the efforts of community stakeholders who are taking on the challenge of affordable housing, primarily through its seat on the board of the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, an organization that includes representation from a wide range of community leaders, organizations and institutions. Our efforts are community-driven, based on conversations we’ve had with our neighbors and local partners.


A minimum of 50% of our subcontract spend for the construction of the Obama Presidential Center will go to diverse firms.



The Foundation and Lakeside Alliance continue to monitor our commitment to achieving this goal through regular reporting. Since Lakeside opened its Resource Center on the South Side, it has conducted 27 informational sessions, 216 one-on-one subcontractor vendor meetings, and welcomed over 285 visitors.

Preserving Parkland

The Obama Presidential Center will sit on 19.3 acres of Jackson Park.



In October 2018, the Chicago City Council approved the Obama Presidential Center design on 19.3 acres of Jackson Park. The Center’s buildings will only span 2.2 acres, which is less than half a percent of Jackson Park's total area.

Preserving Parkland

After the OPC and proposed road improvements are constructed, there will be a net gain of park land in Jackson Park.



The design approved by the Chicago City Council in October 2018 will result in a net gain of approximately 2.5 acres of new park land within the OPC site boundaries.

Preserving Parkland

The park land at the OPC will give South Side residents a world-class park, with lush gardens, varied topography, beautiful walking paths along the Lagoon, children’s play areas, and a great lawn that can be used for quiet relaxation, special events, or everyday fun like sunbathing and grilling.



In response to input from local parents and educators, the OPC playground will be more than twice as large as the current Jackson Park playground. Its design is inspired by themes reflecting the nature in Jackson Park and will inspire children of different ages and abilities to explore and connect.

Preserving Parkland

The campus will also retain the historic comfort station.



Per the design approved by the Chicago City Council in October 2018, the Obama Presidential Center will retain the historic comfort station.

Preserving Parkland

The Center is being designed to qualify for LEED v4 platinum certification.



Per the design approved by Chicago City Council in October 2018, the Center is being designed to qualify for LEED v4 platinum certification.


The Center will offer large gathering spaces and smaller, more intimate venues for study and reflection.



With community feedback in mind, the campus will feature an auditorium, a branch of the Chicago Public Library system, a sledding hill, and many other outdoor and indoor activity spaces that will be free and accessible for community use.


The campus will lead with universal design principles, providing a place that is equally welcoming for all visitors.



From the Museum exhibits to the Playground, a broad spectrum of leaders in the accessibility community have been actively engaged in helping us to think through the design and programming of all aspects of the OPC.


The OPC will create a safe and welcoming environment for all visitors.



We’ve held multiple focus groups with youth and parents from the South Side to gather input on how to create a campus that welcomes and fosters a sense of belonging in the community.


From points north to south and across the globe, OPC visitors will be encouraged to explore not just the campus, but also the surrounding community.



Even before the Center opens, we are encouraging visitors from around the country and the world to explore Chicago. During three Obama Foundation Summits, visitors have participated in service projects, community conversation dinners, and local events one the South and West sides. We plan to continue working with local partners to highlight attractions around the neighborhood once the Center is built.

Our Engagement With You

The Center will be a new landmark for the South Side and an economic engine for the city of Chicago. It will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, creating thousands of new jobs on the South Side, while giving new life to Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of a cohesive, walkable, and iconic Jackson Park. But most importantly, it will be built with direct feedback and engagement with our community.

Since we announced our initial vision for the Obama Presidential Center in May of 2017, we’ve made it our top priority to meet with our neighbors and hear their feedback directly. We know that not everyone is able or has the desire to attend public meeting, so we’ve made it our mission to meet people where they are. We’ve gathered in church basements, visited community centers, and assembled folks at apartment complexes so we could directly solicit input on the plans for the Center. We’ve also had a total open-door policy, willing and eager to meet with anyone who has an interest in the Center. Whether we meet with supporters or concerned neighbors, the input on everything from housing to parking has sharpened our plans and made the Center better.


These interactions have included:

  • Eight public meetings with thousands of participants
  • A dozen fairs and festivals on the South Side
  • Hundreds of small group meetings and one-on-one conversations
  • Numerous stakeholder meetings
  • Thousands of online submissions and hundreds of comment cards

To see a comprehensive list of our meetings with the public, click here.


Add Your Voice

Our Responses to your Feedback

In May of 2017, we first announced the preliminary designs of the Obama Presidential Center campus in Jackson Park. Here’s the original announcement of our vision for the Obama Presidential Center.

Since then, we made several changes and improvements to our plans based on feedback we received form in-person meetings and digital submissions, prior to submitting our application to the City of Chicago in January 2018. These changes reflect the thoughtful input we received throughout the community engagement process, including:

  • Refining the Museum building’s design
  • Relocating the parking facility to an underground structure
  • Dispersing play areas across the site to ensure the entire campus is welcoming and engaging for families and children
  • Retaining Jackson Park’s Women’s Garden and committing to preserving the historic comfort station
  • Removing the pedestrian bridge to the Wooded Island and Lagoon

More details on other feedback we received and the resulting changes we made are below.


You wanted to see more landscaping, a protection of green space across the campus, and a commitment to quiet, restorative space.

Parks should be green, natural peaceful places. So we:

  • Prioritized protection of green space by minimizing the footprint of the tower, providing space for exhibits vertically rather than expanding the footprint of the building and taking up more parkland.

  • Created an extensive network of landscaped paths and unprogrammed park zones, including developing a scenic and generous “promenade” along the Lagoon to honor the original carriage walk designed by Olmsted and Vaux, which is currently a six-lane roadway.

  • Added a berm to the east side of the campus and created additional gardens and ponds, providing noise reduction from vehicles near the Women’s Garden and lagoon area.

  • Designed the campus buildings so that almost two-thirds of the building’s total footprints are covered by park surface that will roll up and act as the “roofs” to two of the campus’ structures.

  • You had a desire for more inviting and welcoming entrances to the Center to connect it to the community.

    You're right, first impressions are critical! So we:

  • Added a more prominent entry to the site at the southeast corner.

  • Removed the pedestrian bridge from the parking facility to the museum building.

  • Created a larger opening at the base of the Museum Building, as well as an enormous “window” to give it more of an open feeling to those on the outside of the building.
  • You had a preference to see parking on-site at Jackson Park rather than at the Midway.

    Some things are best left tucked away. So we:

  • Moved the parking facility from an above-ground location on the Midway to an underground location within our site boundaries at Jackson Park.
  • You had concerns about the design of the tower structure.

    Not everyone fell in love with the design of the Center at first sight. No hard feelings! We:

  • Refined the conceptual design, creating a proportioned tower more emblematic of the OPC's message of hope and inspiration.

  • Added courtyards at the base of the Museum Building and in the Plaza to increase greenery and provide additional shaded outdoor spaces for visitors to the OPC’s lower level.

  • You wanted to see trees across the landscape.

    Go green or go home. We:

  • Included the planting of over 400 new trees in the proposed landscape design of the project site area – more than is estimated to exist today.

  • You wanted to protect bird watching in Jackson Park.

    We love our feathered friends. That's why we:

  • Hired professionals on our design team who are experienced with bird habitats to advise on plantings that will attract a variety of birds and help us ensure we are protecting the natural habitat of birds.

  • Designed the shape and opacity of the Museum Building to ensure that this building will not unnecessarily endanger birds in flight.

  • You had concerns about protecting the historic landmarks on our site.

    If we're going to build a Presidential Museum, we've got to respect our history. So we:

  • Preserved the location of the Women’s Garden and elevated its importance and accessibility by removing the high-speed roads that encircles it.

  • Retained the historic comfort station.
  • You had concerns there was too much activity on and around the Wooded Island.

    If you were raised in Hawaii, you know the importance of a peaceful island getaway. That's why we:

  • Removed the pedestrian bridge to the Wooded Island.

  • You were concerned about closing Cornell Drive and wanted to minimize increased congestion in the area.

    We all hate traffic. So we:

  • Worked with CDOT to propose road improvements along Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island that would allow traffic times to remain consistent with what they are today after changes are made to Cornell Drive.

  • Eliminated bus staging at the park at the Midway and removed the proposed curve in Stony Island Avenue.
  • You wanted to ensure the Center's spaces would be engaging for young people.

    We're doing it for the kids. We:

  • Dispersed children’s play areas throughout the site, as opposed to keeping them in a single location.

  • Lengthened the sledding hill.

  • Committed to educational programs associated with the Community Garden.

  • Committed to youth-oriented programming in the Athletic Center, recording studio, and auditorium.

  • Created a partnership with the Chicago Public Libraries.
  • Our Team

    Our Construction Managers

    Large-scale institutional projects like the Obama Presidential Center are often awarded to big-name majority-owned construction firms. We decided early on in the planning process that we would do things differently. Any firm participating in our request for proposal process would have to provide evidence of a serious and longstanding commitment to diverse representation at the decision-making table, as well as a belief in our shared values of community engagement, diversity, and inclusion.

    The Lakeside Alliance—our partners in the construction of the Obama Presidential Center—brings together four of the largest, most respected African-American-owned firms in Chicago, with one of the largest construction management firms in the U.S. In Lakeside Alliance, we saw a partner with the willingness to do the hard work necessary to overcome obstacles that make it difficult to build diverse workforces.


    Lakeside has committed to working to build a pipeline of talent from underrepresented populations that are not only equipped to build the Obama Presidential Center, but are also prepared to participate in future projects across the city. With four African-American-owned firms at the head table, the construction of the Center will benefit from their expertise while ensuring it reflects the diverse community we share.   

    Learn more about the team.

    Our Diversity Consultants

    The Obama Foundation belongs as much to the people of the South Side as it does the Obamas—and we’re looking first to local residents to help build it, in every way. In June 2018, the Obama Foundation announced the selection of Jacqueline Gomez as its Director of Real Estate Inclusion and Ernest R. Sawyer Enterprises as its Diversity Consultant.

    Learn more about the team.

    And thousands more in Chicago

    In addition to empowering and connecting people from around the country and the world, the Obama Presidential Center will also be a boon to the local economy. During its construction and first ten years of operations, the Center is estimated to create thousands of new jobs and infuse $3.1 billion into the local Chicago economy.

    Read more about how the center will benefit the local economy on the South Side.