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Obama Presidential Center Gains Final Approval from Chicago City Council

City Council Unanimously Approves Use Agreement

Chicago IL — Today the Chicago City Council voted 48-0 to approve agreements between the City of Chicago and the Obama Foundation related to the Obama Presidential Center and Museum, the last step in the City’s approval process related to the Center.

The ordinance passed today includes a master agreement, use agreement, and other agreements between the Foundation and the City, which together outline how the Foundation and the City will work together to ensure the Center is providing substantial public benefits. The Center will include Chicago’s first presidential museum, which will tell the story not just of President and Mrs. Obama but also of those who came before and the power of what ordinary people can do together. The Center will build on Chicago’s rich cultural tradition of museums in its parks and expand that tradition further South.

The Council also passed a related ordinance authorizing road and pedestrian safety improvements that will reconnect the Center’s site in historic Jackson Park—which is currently cut off by a major highway—to the rest of the park for the benefit of the community.

“Thank you to Mayor Emanuel, to the City Council, especially Leslie Hairston, who worked so hard on this, and everyone in the City of Chicago who supported the Presidential Center from the start,” said President Obama in a video shared after the vote. “Michelle and I could not be prouder or more excited to bring the Center to the South Side, a community that has given us both so much.”

“Today’s vote advances our vision of an Obama Presidential Center and Museum that is a world-class amenity on the South Side of Chicago, an investment in our neighbors and this entire City, and an opportunity to revitalize Jackson Park,” added Obama Foundation CEO David Simas. “It will also serve as a reminder to all our children that their potential is limitless.”

The use agreement allows the Foundation to occupy 19.3 acres of the 250-acre park to build the Center, whose buildings will then be deeded to the City and owned by the people of Chicago.

The use agreement further outlines that:

  • The Obama Presidential Center will not receive ongoing operating and capital subsidies like other museums in the parks. The Foundation will be solely responsible for funding the operations of the Center.
  • While other museums may generally occupy their buildings in perpetuity so long as the museum continues, the Foundation’s use agreement is for 99 years, at which time any extension will require City Council approval.

The vote is the culmination of a robust public review process. Since the Foundation announced its initial vision for the Obama Presidential Center in May 2017, the Foundation has participated in numerous stakeholder, community, and public meetings with thousands of participants. The City Council voted 47-1 to approve the overall plans for the Obama Presidential Center in May 2018.

The Center is also undergoing a federal review process under the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act given Jackson Park’s historic designation, as well as under the Federal-Aid Highway Act given the road improvement work.

Read more about the use agreement approved today here.

Transcript of President Obama’s Video Message

Hey, everybody. I am so excited and grateful that today the Obama Foundation received approval from Chicago City Council on the agreement that will help bring the Obama Presidential Center to life as a resource and amenity for the people of Chicago.

Thank you to Mayor Emanuel, to the City Council, especially Leslie Hairston, who worked so hard on this, and everyone in the City of Chicago who supported the Presidential Center from the start.

Michelle and I could not be prouder or more excited to bring the Center to the South Side, a community that has given us both so much.

And we look forward to continuing our work with our neighborhoods and friends across the City to build this Center. To make it a centerpiece where young people can come and learn about their history, learn about how they can get involved, learn how their voice has power, find out ways in which they can have a positive impact on their communities.

It’s going to be really exciting, and I hope that it’s going to serve as a reminder to every child in Chicago and every visitor around the world that their potential is limitless.

You’ve made that happen, and we couldn’t be more appreciative and grateful. And we can’t wait to get in there and start doing good work with you.

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Contact: Laura Lucas Magnuson, [email protected]

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