With former President Barack Obama’s library, Chicago’s South Side plans big

Scott Olson/Getty Images

(CHICAGO) — Plans for former President Barack Obama’s presidential library are underway in his hometown of Chicago’s South Side.

“We hope it will help lift up the South Side and breathe new life into Jackson Park and the surrounding communities,” former President Obama said in a tweet.

Mayor Lori Lightwood announced $500 million plans to create the Obama Presidential Center in the historic South Side Jackson Park.

“It’s really a transformative development for the city of Chicago,” Deputy Mayor of Economic and Neighborhood Development Samir Mayekar told ABC News.

The Chicago’s South Side is home to a diverse urban community made up of many minorities and is not the typical location for a presidential library or presidential center, but Mayekar said that is the point.

“One of the things we’ve really been focused on under Mayor Lori Lightfood’s leadership is really thinking about all of the communities that surround the Obama Presidential Center … it will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into a community in a way that will generate more jobs more opportunity and more hope for the residents of the South Side,” Mayekar said.

The project follows a four-year federal review, lawsuits, and concerns by activists of possible gentrification.

The library and center is expected to become a major tourist attraction and moneymaker for the city, which could potentially make the area unaffordable for some of its current residents.

In efforts to curb potential gentrification, Illinois passed a housing preservation ordinance that provides $10 million in financing to help preserve affordability in the communities around the Obama Presidential Community Center.

“It was really important to make sure we’re making substantial investments in affordable housing because as you can imagine any time you have a tremendous catalytic development, there’s always displacement concerns,” Mayekar said.

Plans for the Center

Plans for the center include play areas, a four-building campus, underground parking, open space for walking and bike paths.

The center is set to be built around the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition which was once a site for the World Fair, and “put Chicago on the road map,” according to Mayekar.

“It’s only fitting that the next, tremendous milestone that happens on the South Side of this magnitude, happens in historic Jackson Park with the Obama Center,” Mayekar said.

Work for the library officially begins in mid-September 2021.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.