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Jackson Park: The Right Choice

A rendering of the Obama Presidential Center campus.

The Obama Foundation is publicly releasing five documents that the Foundation is providing to the parties in the lawsuit related to the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side. These five documents include:

Taken together, these documents show that the Foundation’s decision to locate the Center in Jackson Park was driven by priorities that remain central to our approach and continue to inform our design, hiring practices for construction, and programs that will be offered on-site.

These priorities include:

  • A preference to build a cultural landmark on the South Side of Chicago, where the Obamas got their start, despite competitive bids put forth by many cities and organizations.

  • A desire to invest in an urban area with a diverse community, in keeping with President and Mrs. Obama’s desire to create a hub of recreational, cultural, and economic activity for those living around the Center.

  • A preference for a central location that will encourage visitors to explore more than the Center, generating economic activity for the surrounding community.

The Foundation considered 14 proposals from cities bidding for the Obama Presidential Center, stretching from Hawaiʻi to New York City. While the South Side was a leading contender from the start given President and Mrs. Obama’s strong ties to the community, we received many impressive ideas that inspired us. That includes one from the University of Illinois, Chicago, whose proposal underscored its commitment to social justice and empowering underserved communities.

Ultimately, the Foundation concluded that Jackson Park offered the best combination of opportunity for long-term benefits to the South Side, strong connections to other institutions, and an iconic location. Since selecting Jackson Park, the Foundation presented its plans for the Center to the public and hosted a robust public process over the course of a year and a half. In those public sessions, we garnered feedback on the design and function of the Center, as well as the anticipated economic, cultural, and recreational impact, all of which informed updates to our plans. With eight public meetings and multiple City Council hearings—as well as countless small groups, one-on-one meetings, and visits to local community centers—we have sought to meet people where they are and include as many voices as possible in the process.

As our Board Chairman Marty Nesbitt said when announcing the selection of Jackson Park: "For the first time, a presidential center will be in the heart of an urban community. The President and First Lady are proud that the Obama Foundation is developing the Obama Presidential Center in the South Side, a community that they call home... With its aesthetics, iconic location, historical relevance from the World’s Fair, we believe Jackson Park will attract visitors on a national and global level that will bring significant long term benefits to the South Side. And, we believe that locating the President Center at Jackson Park will have the greatest long term impact on combined communities. Which is really what’s most important."