To be formally announced next week, the selection means the Obama Presidential Center will be built near the lakefront, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught constitutional law. To be completed by 2021 at an estimated cost of at least $500 million, the project will include a library housing the presidential archives, a museum devoted to Obama's two terms in office, and the headquarters of the Obama Foundation.
The site selection has prompted concerns, however, about the library's footprint in the 543-acre park — which was designed by nineteenth-century landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and includes a wooded island in a picturesque lagoon, lush woods, and a golf course — and over the expected gentrification of the surrounding mostly African-American neighborhoods. Michelle Obama previously worked as an administrator at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and the Obamas still maintain a house near the campus.
The selection of Jackson Park also disappointed advocates of the other finalist site, Washington Park, also on the South Side but in an area pockmarked with vacant lots and plagued by gun violence. For Washington Park residents, the news marked the second loss of a major project that promised an economic renaissance — the park was the centerpiece of the city's failed bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
"I think it's a benefit to the South Side of Chicago, period," U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, a Democrat from south suburban Matteson whose district includes Jackson Park, told the Tribune. "No matter which park it's in, it's good for the South Side and uplifting to have a presidential library there."