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Our Commitment to our Neighbors


Today, we are unveiling the Obama Foundation Community Commitments — our pledge to make sure the community that gave the Obamas so much benefits directly from the Obama Presidential Center. This piece outlines specific commitments we’ve made regarding jobs, economic impact, preservation of parkland, youth engagement, and community resources. Take a look, and then share your thoughts.

-Michael Strautmanis, Chief Engagement Officer

The Obama Presidential Center will serve as a hub on Chicago’s South Side to inspire and train the next generation of civic leaders. More than a cultural landmark, the OPC will endure as a community resource and an economic engine for South Side residents.

The OPC will be a national model for community engagement. It will be a place of collaboration for local residents, and a place for community organizations, museums and educational institutions alike to explore new ideas, engage new audiences, create jobs, and economic opportunities, and showcase the vibrant culture of the South Side to the rest of the world.

The museum at the OPC will stand as a tribute to the self-determination of the African American journey that led to the election of the first black president -- celebrating the resilience that guided a culture through the indignities of slavery and Jim Crow to the historic evening in Grant Park, 10 years ago, when we stood as a collective with President Obama, our first president from the South Side of Chicago.

As we embark on this important work, we will use every opportunity to strengthen the community around us. What follows are the principles guiding our work and the specific commitments we have made to our neighbors to date. This is a living, breathing document the Obama Foundation will regularly 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.

Guiding Principles

We will inspire, train, and elevate the next generation of civic leaders in underserved neighborhoods across Chicago and around the world to be the change they want to see in their communities.

We will partner with and strengthen existing community-based organizations.

We will serve as an economic engine for the South Side, attracting private investment, strengthening the local economic climate, and creating shared prosperity to help our neighbors build wealth.

We will embrace meaningful diversity and inclusion, focusing on engaging the surrounding community, and South and West Side neighbors alongside other underrepresented populations, including returning citizens, opportunity youth, women, members of the LGBTQ community, veterans, and people with disabilities.

We will be a resource to the communities surrounding the OPC, providing accessible space to gather, educate, socialize and entertain.

We will be careful stewards of the land, honoring the rich history of Jackson Park and prioritizing the preservation of the parkland in our design and operations.

We will nurture curious minds, educating our youth and community members to tackle the challenges of our time.

We will use our leverage and the power of the Obama name to bring resources to our community to address comprehensive needs of economic development.  We will seek to build economic opportunity by protecting against unwanted displacement, helping create infrastructure improvements, and attracting additional investment to the area.

Community Commitments, Spring 2018

Economic Impact & Jobs

The OPC is expected to bring $3.1 Billion in economic activity to Chicago. We will leverage this investment to support local businesses and encourage additional investments in the area, layering and focusing them for impact.

As we begin the work of building an inclusive workforce for the construction and operations of our center, we will develop new ways to overcome the obstacles to creating a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community. Our goal is to create a new model for diversity and inclusion that can be embraced by projects across the city and beyond, providing opportunities for underrepresented populations to have meaningful, well-paying careers. Our construction manager, Lakeside Alliance, has committed to ensuring that at least 50% of the worker hours on the job are performed by City of Chicago residents.

OPC Construction Jobs: Creating the most diverse, local construction workforce in Chicago history

When we selected the team to build the OPC, we chose Lakeside Alliance to make sure local, minority-owned and operated firms have a lead role, with a seat at the head table, benefiting financially from the project, making decisions, and gaining critical experience that will benefit our project and their growth as they compete for similarly-sized projects in the future.

  • A minimum of fifty percent of our subcontracts for the estimated $300-350 million construction project will go to diverse firms, including at least 35% with minority business enterprises (MBEs), 10% with women business enterprises (WBEs), and no less than 5% with businesses owned by veterans, individuals with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community.  All together, this contracting structure will seek to bring opportunity to underrepresented business leaders throughout our community.

  • Lakeside Alliance will aggressively reach out to the available workforce in our community, including hosting job fairs, maintaining an active and visible community presence, and working with trusted partner organizations with credibility in the community like Black Contractors United, Black United Fund of Illinois, the Chinese American Service League, the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association, and many others to advertise job openings and encourage residents to apply for available jobs.

    • Lakeside Alliance will host Career & Training Opportunity Fairs across City College campuses, beginning at Olive Harvey on the South Side. Workforce development agencies, apprenticeship program representatives, training organizations, and many supportive service agencies will be present to provide attendees with actionable information about each of their programs.

    • Throughout the spring and summer Lakeside will also travel across Chicago to meet with local neighborhood groups, sharing information about job opportunities on the OPC project.

    • Lakeside Alliance will open a South Side Resource Center, allowing residents storefront access to the OPC builders. Residents can visit the Resource Center to learn more about job opportunities and updates on the OPC project.

    • The Lakeside team will support the establishment of apprenticeship training programs in Washington Park, Woodlawn and South Shore, and other areas where they do not currently exist or could benefit from more robust support.

  • We recognize that business-as-usual will not create the diverse construction workforce that should build the OPC, a signature South Side project in the name of our first African-American and hometown President and First Lady. We will insist on meaningful opportunities for the community to enter the local building trades.

  • In order to monitor commitments, we will hire 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. This consultant will serve a key oversight function, collecting and verifying data to both monitor and enforce the commitments of Lakeside Alliance and other project vendors, and will provide regular updates to the public on this progress.

  • In order to tap into the extraordinary professional talent and skill in the community, we will prioritize diversity in our professional services, affirmatively seeking to engage local talent from underrepresented communities and working with our vendors to fill lead roles with local, diverse talent.

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

  • We will hire a Director of Strategic Sourcing who will be responsible for ensuring the Foundation has effective systems in place to expand equity and access to opportunity for diverse professional service providers across all industries.

Economic Development: Strengthening the economic climate of the South Side and ensuring shared prosperity with our neighbors

  • We will work with community, business, government, and grassroots leaders to develop and implement a comprehensive economic development plan for the South Side through local chambers of commerce, community-based organizations, and the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative.

  • We will support policies and tools that incentivize the development of a strong small business corridor around the OPC and beyond -- one that consists of locally-owned retail, restaurants, and key resident services like pharmacies.

  • We will also support neighborhood workshops on small business ownership and other neighborhood centered entrepreneurial training.

Housing: Ensuring Residents of the South Side Continue to call the South Side Home

We recognize both the need for economic investment in South Side neighborhoods and the need to make housing affordable for current residents.

  • We will support neighborhood stabilization efforts.

  • We will use our convening power and resources to bring local residents to the table with city and county officials to help create a strategy around vacant land and responsible affordable housing.

  • We will support policies that ensure residents who wish to stay in the area will be given the tools that allow them to do so.

Civic Engagement

From leaders who are already making an impact, to people who don’t know where to start but want to become more involved in civic life, our goal is to make our programs accessible to anyone, anywhere. We’ll equip civic innovators, young leaders, and everyday citizens with the skills and tools they need to create change in their communities.

Youth Programming: Inspiring & Empowering Young People to Change Their World

The OPC will create space and opportunities to educate and engage young people of the South and West Sides of Chicago and beyond, whether through play, learning, mentorship or civic activism.

  • We will partner with public schools like Hyde Park Academy, and other neighborhood schools, supporting civics education and leadership development. We will build on our special relationship with Hyde Park Academy that began with the launch of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Program, and will continue with long-term Foundation involvement, including comprehensive engagement with faculty and students, job opportunities and unique in-school and after-school programming -- all designed to lift up the students, staff, administration, parents and alumni of Hyde Park Academy, our neighbor that sits across Stony Island Avenue.

  • We will build a partnership with the Chicago Public Library to create a free and open 21st-Century library experience on the campus of the OPC, welcoming residents and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, with innovative library programming for our neighborhood and technology that allows visitors to build global connections.

  • In 2018, in partnership with Urban Alliance, the Obama Foundation launched the Obama Youth Job Corps, providing highly impactful professional internships and workforce training for local high school seniors, with an initial pilot at Hyde Park Academy, Kenwood Academy High School, and Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy. This program will place young people from the South Side in paid internships that expand their networks and their horizons. In 2019 and beyond, we will expand to sophomores and juniors and eventually will serve youth from other parts of Chicago in the years to come.

  • The Obama Foundation will continue the efforts that we began in 2017 to provide free civic leadership training opportunities to the young emerging leaders of Chicago. Last fall, President Obama joined 150 youth participants from all across Chicago at our pilot Training Day in Greater Grand Crossing, a day-long experience that trained future civic leaders on the tools they need to create change in their communities. In June, we will bring our Community Leadership Corps program to 100 Chicago young people -- this six-month program involves two in-person trainings, online support, community work, and a gathering of leaders to promote shared learning.

  • We will continue the work of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance), focusing on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color particularly as it relates to mentoring and youth violence prevention.

  • Through the MBK Alliance Community Challenge Competition launched in 2018, the Foundation will initially invest $1 million in Chicago for staffing, training, and financial support to assist local organizations who are doing the most innovative work improving the lives of young men of color.

Global Connections: Convening leaders from Chicago and around the world to exchange ideas and explore creative solutions to common problems

  • We will bring our global programming to Chicago in greater scale than ever before and will pilot our programs on the South Side, giving local residents lifelong learning resources, business training, and access to the tools they need to make positive change in their communities.

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

Building a Community Resource

In creating partnerships with neighborhood businesses, leaders, and community organizations, we will connect OPC visitors to the community, creating pathways for our guests to explore the culture, shops, restaurants, and more, discovering the neighborhood that raised Mrs. Obama and brought President Obama to Chicago.

Preserving Parkland: Designed to honor Olmsted’s democratic idea of a park as a gathering place open and accessible to all.

In their report to the South Park Commission in 1871, famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux said the park they envisioned was intended for everyone, but in particular for the “thousands of the very class of citizens whose convenience most needs to be considered...the toiling population of Chicago.” The landscape architects believed that urban parks not only provided refuge from the stresses of city life, but were also democratic and cultural places for all classes of people to interact. The OPC landscape will embrace the design principles of Olmsted and Vaux and honor the rich history of the park.

  • The Obama Presidential Center will sit on 19.3 acres of Jackson Park’s 540 acre park, continuing Chicago’s rich tradition of museums in the parks.

  • The footprints of the OPC’s four buildings total only 2.6 acres of the 19.3 acre site. Of that 2.6 acres, 1.6 acres worth of “roof” area is covered by totally accessible open space. The remaining 16.7 acres will remain completely open and publicly accessible, including landscaped active and passive areas, and a one acre plaza.

  • With the road improvements being considered and our design to preserve parkland for the public, there will be a net gain of parkland in Jackson Park.

  • The parkland 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.  The landscape will also include upwards of 400 new trees to be planted across the site.

  • In recognition of Jackson Park’s status as one of the state’s premiere bird-watching sites, the landscape will include plants that attract a broad range of birds and protect their natural habitat in the space.

  • The OPC design will make improvements to enhance access to the Women’s Garden.

  • The OPC campus will also retain the historic comfort station.

  • Continuing President Obama’s commitment to protecting the earth’s resources, the OPC will be, at a minimum, LEED v4 platinum certified.

OPC Campus: Reinvesting in Historic Jackson Park to Create a Hub of Life and Vibrancy for South Siders

  • As a space meant for the public to enjoy, the OPC will offer large gathering spaces and smaller, more intimate venues for study and reflection; an auditorium for performing arts; a restaurant with a test kitchen for community programming; and a recording studio - all available to the public without an admission fee.

  • The OPC will offer space to community organizations and schools for education, after-school or summer activities ranging from use of the Athletic Center to space in the Forum free of charge.

  • Programming at the OPC will include public lectures, cultural activities, and civic engagement opportunities that will be open to all of our neighbors.

  • The OPC will be designed as an open, engaging community center.

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

  • 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.

  • The OPC Museum will celebrate the nation’s first African American president and first family through an understanding of progressive movements, and American history -- including the unique legacy of the South Side.

  • The OPC museum will be affordable to local residents.

  • The OPC will work closely with fellow members of the South Museum Campus to bring more visitors and create collaborations and synergies with institutions like the DuSable Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry.

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