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Judge Asked to Block Obama Center Construction

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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Several months after a lawsuit was filed to prevent city officials from authorizing construction of the $500 million, Chicago-based Obama Presidential Center, a federal judge is being asked to temporarily block construction in light of a recent report that trees were being cut down in the park, even though there have been no final government approvals.

The request is a follow-up from the lawsuit, filed by Protect Our Parks Inc. on May 14, which sought to prevent the use of the park for the complex.

Obama Center Design Details

The design for the Center, created by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects|Partners, with landscape architecture by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, was first introduced in May 2017. The complex is planned to be located in Jackson Park, on Chicago’s South Side.

The 19.6-acre complex was to be composed of six parts: a public plaza, an athletic center, a museum, a library, the Forum community and event building and a parking facility. The latter was initially proposed as an above-ground parking garage, but has since been relocated underground to the south of the library, due to community backlash.

The main cluster of buildings was originally slated to include the museum tower, the Forum and the library, and all would be connected by a basement level that would receive natural light through sunken openings, noted the Chicago Tribune.

The $300 million contract for the construction of the complex was awarded to the Lakeside Alliance, which is composed of Powers & Sons Construction Co., Turner Construction Co., Brown & Momen, UJAMAA Construction and Safeway Construction Co.

Ongoing Legal Troubles

In a brief released in late June, lawyers representing the city informed the court that the lawsuit was premature, as the city council had not yet approved the ordinance that authorized the work. At the time, a judge put a stay on the lawsuit.

Things took a turn when the Chicago-Sun Times reported Monday that trees were being cut down and baseball diamonds were being dug up on property close to what will be the Obama Center. The complex will be displacing the original track field, so the Obama Foundation agreed to pay Chicago Park District up to $3.5 million to replace it, though the Foundation will not be covering the replacement of the baseball field. The Foundation also paid for a tree study of Jackson Park.

In the more recent motion, trees getting knocked down was an example used to dismantle the argument that the lawsuit had been filed “prematurely.”

City hall spokesperson Shannon Breymaier noted that both the motion and the lawsuit were both “without merit,” citing the fact that the establishment of “a new track and field in Jackson Park on land south of the proposed site of the Obama Presidential Center” is not part of the lawsuit. The plan has reportedly been on public record for months.

“The lawsuit challenges the proposed transfer of park district land to the city, and the Foundation’s use of that land for the OPC," Breymaier said. "The new track and field project will be on land that is not part of that transfer. Rather, the Park District will continue to own and operate the land.”


Tagged categories: Design build; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; President Obama; Public spaces; Urban Planning

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