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Foundation looks forward to next steps, including continued community engagement to develop the OPC. You can learn more about the future OPC here.

Chicago, IL –The Obama Foundation will submit its Planned Development and Lakefront Protection Ordinance applications for the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) today. These submissions mark a significant milestone in the development of the OPC and reflect both the ongoing evolution of the OPC's design and feedback the Foundation has gathered from conversations with thousands of residents and other stakeholders over the past eight months, since May 2017. With these applications, the Obama Foundation is taking the next step in delivering on its goal to create a campus that will energize Jackson Park and drive economic opportunity on the South Side, and the Foundation will continue to engage with the community throughout this process. The Foundation plans to break ground on the OPC in late 2018 and open its doors in 2021.

“The Obama Presidential Center will be a global community center, a place of life and vibrancy that showcases the South Side to the world,” said Martin H. Nesbitt, Board Chair of the Obama Foundation. “I am proud of our team’s work over the last year to create a Center that the South Side, greater Chicago community, and visitors across the globe can take pride in.”

“One year ago, President and Mrs. Obama laid out their vision for the Obama Presidential Center: a living, working campus for citizenship that will inspire and empower visitors and residents to create change in their communities and the world,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation. “Today’s development is the next step in realizing that vision by creating a cultural destination in Jackson Park and an economic engine for the South Side and City of Chicago. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received from residents and members of the community and look forward to continuing our work with them to ensure everyone has a voice in this historic project.”

The guiding principles for the design of the OPC are to:

  • Create a world-class cultural attraction on the South Side: Provide new and improved public recreation space and civic engagement opportunities for the people and families of the South Side; create a welcoming and dynamic space for children and young adults that allows them to play, learn, and be inspired; enhance public safety in and around the park; and invest in an improved and reinvigorated park landscape. Much of the space within the OPC’s buildings and the entirety of the surrounding OPC campus will be free to the public.

  • Create jobs and economic opportunity for the South Side: Provide economic development opportunities for the individuals, families, and businesses of the South Side, City of Chicago, and State of Illinois. The Center is estimated to support nearly 5,000 new, local jobs during its construction, and more than 2,500 permanent jobs once the Center opens. The Center will attract up to 760,000 annual visitors — and in its first 10 years, is expected to have a total economic impact of $3.1 billion.

  • Unify Jackson Park and honor its history: Remove barriers and improve connectivity to the lakefront; honor the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted; add green space; and strengthen the identity and connections between the Museum Campus South institutions, including the Museum of Science and Industry and the DuSable Museum of African American History.

  • Build with sustainable practices: Aim for, at minimum, a LEED v4 Platinum rating; manage water responsibly; improve ecological performance of planting; educate visitors on sustainability; and encourage community members to engage with the landscape and park experience.

  • Build upon existing partnership with the community:  Community input and feedback is critical to the design and construction of the OPC; much of the current design is the result of thousands of engagements -- meetings, conversations, and online submissions -- from our neighbors. The design will continue to be shaped by community input.

The OPC campus will inspire visitors with an experience that draws upon the historic nature of the Obama presidency and empowers visitors with the tools to become active citizens in their own communities. Rather than a single building in Jackson Park, the OPC is designed as an open, inclusive campus integrated into the landscape. This meets the Obama Foundation’s goal of continuing to revitalize Jackson Park and creating a dynamic destination for community members and visitors to gather, exchange ideas, and have fun.

The campus will be comprised of a:

  • Museum Building: The Museum Building is intended to establish the Obama Presidential Center as a landmark and an important civic place for the City of Chicago.  The building is intended to represent ascension, hope and what ordinary people have the power to do together, and is planned to be 235-feet-high and composed of 8 primary floors and multiple mezzanine levels.  About half of the building will be occupied by the OPC’s museum, which will be a ticketed experience and be filled with exhibitions and artifacts telling the story of the Obamas situated within a nuanced historical context: civil rights history, African-American history, the history of Chicago, along with a broader U.S. history. The rest of the building will be filled with other public spaces, including the top floor, which will feature a contemplative space that is free and open to the public with views of the park and Lake Michigan.

  • Forum Building:  This is a 2-story building, with one level below grade and one story above grade. Landscaped paths transition visitors from the park to the building’s fully accessible roof terrace. The Forum will be primarily comprised of programming spaces and community amenities including a public winter garden, multi-purpose meeting spaces, auditorium, media production, and a restaurant. The majority of this space will be free and open to the public.

  • Library Building: This 2-story building is also only one level above-ground and covered with useable park land. The Library Building will be a portal for OPC visitors to engage with the world beyond the Center. The Foundation is currently exploring the possibility of a partnership with the Chicago Public Library.

  • Plaza: The Museum, Forum, and Library Building will wrap around a public plaza that will serve as another gateway or entry point for the community into the park. The plaza will act as a ”town square” for the local community; both a place for informal gathering and for programmed public events that will add to the neighborhood  and park experience. It will host performances of all types, including celebrations, events, or markets and fairs.

  • Athletic Center: This 2-story building will be partially submerged into the park and covered by a green roof, and will provide an indoor multi-use sport and athletic facility for year round activity that invites the community to play and celebrate the importance of teamwork and exercise through playing sports. The Athletic Center provides opportunities for programming partnerships with Chicago Park District, Hyde Park Academy, and the South Side YMCA, among others.

  • Parking Facility: The parking facility will be located underground within the Jackson Park site between the Library Building and the Athletic Center. Entry and exit from the garage will be on the east side of Stony Island Avenue and aligned with 61st Street.  The facility will accommodate 400-450 cars.

The entire OPC campus is designed with universal design concepts, so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability.

Since announcing initial plans in May, the Obama Foundation has made several changes to the design of the Center to reflect input received by the community. These changes are the result of the Obama Foundation participating in numerous stakeholder meetings, seven public meetings with over 2,000 attendees, and a dozen fairs and festivals on the South Side. This is in addition to countless small group meetings and one-on-one conversations throughout the community, along with thousands of online submissions.

Notable changes include:

  • Relocation of the parking facility from an above-ground location on the Midway to an underground location within Jackson Park;

  • Continued design refinement of the Museum building to create a better proportioned tower more emblematic of the OPC's message of hope and inspiration;

  • Retained the Women's Garden and committed to preserving the historic comfort station at the south end of the site;

  • Removed the pedestrian bridge to the Wooded Island and Lagoon to ensure those spaces remain quiet and restorative;

  • Dispersed play areas across the site rather than consolidating in a single location to ensure the entire campus is engaging for families and children.

The Foundation will announce its next public meeting to receive feedback on its applications in the weeks ahead. It is expected that the Foundation will go before the Chicago Plan Commission in Spring 2018.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners and Interactive Design Architects lead the design team of the Obama Presidential Center. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), Site Design Group, and Living Habitats serve as the project’s landscape architects. Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Civic Projects LLC, Normal, Amanda Williams, Andres Hernandez, and Norman Teague lead the exhibition design team. The “Center Consortium” of Jones Lang LaSalle, McKissack & McKissack, and Ardmore Associates lead the project management team. Lakeside Alliance, a joint venture consisting of Turner Construction Company, and the Presidential Partners consortium of Powers & Sons Construction, UJAMAA Construction, Brown & Momen, and Safeway Construction serve as the construction manager.

President Obama shared an update on the OPC in a video released to coincide with the filing, which can be seen HERE Opens in a new tab

A transcript of President Obama’s video is below:

Hi, everybody. Over the course of the past year, Michelle and I have been working with an extraordinary team to dream up a campus for active citizenship on Chicago’s South Side: The Obama Presidential Center.

You should know that when I was younger, I went through a phase when I wanted to be an architect. So, as you can imagine, I’ve been pretty hands-on in the process.

As I got older, my journey brought me to Chicago – an extraordinary city where I met Michelle and started a family, and where I made a home in neighborhoods that taught me the power of ordinary people coming together to create positive change.  It’s no surprise, then, that Michelle and I decided that we had to build the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side, in historic Jackson Park.

The majority of the Campus will be free and open to the public. It will be a place for all seasons, with winding landscapes, a sledding hill, and quiet spaces to read or reflect.  

The Campus includes a Museum, a Library Building, an Athletic Center, and a place we’re calling the “Forum” -- a public meeting space where people of all backgrounds can come together for programming, training, to take in a performance in the auditorium.

The Museum Building is a tower, a form representing ascension, hope, and what ordinary people have the power to do together. We designed it with this photo in mind -- many hands, each one different, coming together as one. So too will each facade of our four-sided tower be a little different from the next. It’s our way of showing that it takes many hands to shape a place. And while this Center may have my name on it, it will be a place open to everybody, dedicated to informing and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow.

Now, this is still a work in progress, and public input has been central to our process. From community meetings to online surveys, we've heard from literally thousands of people about their hopes for the Center, what they'd like to see improved or changed, and how we can best serve our neighbors in Chicago. This input has shaped the design, it's challenged us, and it's made our design better. It will help us to keep refining the design details, and we’ll continue to ask for help, ideas, and feedback along the way.

Here’s the most important thing: Michelle and I want this Center to be more than just a building. We want to create an economic engine for the South Side of Chicago, a cultural attraction that showcases the South Side to the rest of the world. We want it to be a gathering place -- somewhere for all kinds of people to come together and learn, not just from history or current events, but from each other. More than a museum with stories from the past, we want this to be a place that helps all of us to build our collective future. Because in the end, this Center, most importantly, is for the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and create the world as it should be. We want this place to inspire them, to lift them up, to give them the tools they need to succeed. Michelle and I are absolutely grateful to all of you for being a part of this remarkable process.  Thanks so much.

You can view the press packet HERE.

You can view the community input impact FAQ sheet HERE Opens in a new tab .


Contact: Kate Berner, [email protected]