The Obama Foundation has announced a series of "community commitments" in support of revitalization efforts on Chicago's South Side.
The commitments include a partnership with the Chicago Public Library to open a library branch at the future Obama Presidential Center. The initial vision for the branch includes spaces for reading and study that can be converted to open seating for programs and events; a dedicated children's area and a YOUmedia program that enables teens to explore the world and their own creativity using new technologies; and meeting space available for public use. In addition, staff will be trained to connect job-seekers to workforce development and education services.
"A public library underscores so much of what we at the Obama Foundation are about," said Obama Foundation board chair Marty Nesbitt. "The public library is the essential civic institution, a place for community to gather and engage, and a place for the young and the young at heart to learn."
Announced last week, other commitments include support for the Community Leadership Corps program, a six-month leadership development program for young people between the ages of 18 and 25 that will build on a pilot project launched in 2017; a partnership with Hyde Park Academy and other schools in support of civics education and leadership development; and efforts to bring the foundation's global programming and network of leaders to the South Side to drive positive community change.
The foundation also announced that plans for the presidential center, which will sit on 19.3 acres of Jackson Park's 540 acres, will preserve the original democratic idea of the park as a gathering place that is open and accessible to all and will include enhancements to roads and landscaping. Lakeside Alliance, which will manage the project, has committed to ensuring that at least 50 percent of the worker hours on the job are performed by City of Chicago residents.
"When designing the campus of the Obama Presidential Center, we've listened to what those in the community most want and set out to offer something for everyone," said Robbin Cohen, executive director of the Obama Foundation and the person tasked with overseeing the partnership with CPL. "With a partnership with CPL, we realized we could both address the need for a library in this neighborhood and give young people in the area a fun and educational way to engage with the Obama Presidential Center."