Our Commitment to You

As we embark on this important work, we will use every opportunity to strengthen the community around us. We have developed core principles that guide our work along with specific commitments we have made to our neighbors to date, which will live in a document that we will consistently update with new commitments so our neighbors and fellow Chicagoans can track our progress, hold us accountable, and offer feedback as we embark on this historic endeavor together.

Read our full community commitments statement.

Our Engagement With You

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.

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