The proposed construction of the extensive Obama Presidential Center on some 19.3 acres in Jackson Park on the south side of Chicago has long been a simmering issue of deep and continuous controversy. This past February, I stated my multiple objections to the choice of the historic site for the center and argued that on every conceivable ground it would be far better for the City of Chicago to construct it in Washington Park, located just to the west of Hyde Park. Washington Park is largely under-utilized and is a stone’s throw from the Chicago expressways. The Washington Park site will not require closing the major northbound roads that now run through Jackson Park, and it will not clash with other lakefront fixtures, including the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry located on the north end of Jackson Park. My views were hardly idiosyncratic; they were shared by at least 200 members of the University of Chicago faculty.
Objections to the project were effectively overridden when the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate gave the project its unanimous blessing on October 11. By that time, however, the action had started to shift to the courts: On May 14, a long-time activist group, Protect Our Parks, joined by several Chicago residents, filed a lawsuit whose sole purpose was to block the construction of the Obama center in Jackson Park. The suit seeks to invalidate the transfer of property rights in the Jackson Park land from the Park Department to the City of Chicago for the nominal price of $1, after which the City plans to designate it for use by the center, without making a formal transfer of title.More