Costly Obama Presidential Center runs into mounting opposition from U. of Chicago faculty

by WorldTribune Staff, January 21, 2018

The Obama Presidential Center will cost Chicago taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and “will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhoods” in which the proposed center will be near, more than 100 University of Chicago faculty members said in an open letter posted online.

The faculty members said that, while they support “the idea” of the Obama Center in the city’s South Side, the current plans “need significant revision.”

An impression of the Obama Presidential Center’s main buildings. /

“As details of the plans have become public we share concerns expressed by neighborhood groups throughout the South Side,” the letter states.

“It looks to many neighbors that the only new jobs created will be as staff to the Obama Center.”

The faculty members also expressed concern that “a large section of an historic public park” would be taken away and given “to a private entity for development.”

A second public park, the letter says, would be turned into an above-ground parking garage.

“None of the funds” from the parking lot “will go back to the City to improve train lines and public transportation infrastructure,” the letter states.

“Overall, this is a socially regressive plan. This is a precious, historic urban park that ought to be preserved for future generations not given to a private entity for development into a parking lot.”

The letter continued: “We are concerned that these are not the best ways to use public funds to invest in the future of Chicago.”

The Obama Foundation said that the center is estimated to support nearly 5,000 new jobs during construction and 2,500 permanent jobs once it opens. It also claims that in its first 10 years, the center is expected to have a total economic impact of $3.1 billion.

In a video statement released on Jan. 16, former President Barack Obama said “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.”

The University of Chicago faculty members said in the letter that “We would be pleased to support the Obama Center if the plan genuinely promoted economic development in our neighborhoods and respected our precious public urban parks.”

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