Concrete Collective to hire within South Side community for Obama Center construction

Jackson Park roadwork begins ahead of Obama Center construction

ByLeah Hope and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Jackson Park roadwork begins ahead of Obama Center construction
Crews are beginning preliminary work Monday in Jackson Park ahead of the construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Soon, a Jackson Park track and athletic field will be gone to make way for the Obama Presidential Center.

Monday kicked off new traffic changes as demolition begins.

Among the contractors working on the center are two African American-owned firms as part of the Concrete Collective.

"By God's grace, we get to be a part of this," said Robert J. McGee Jr., president of II in One Contractors.

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While the concrete on the project likely won't be poured until December, the contractors in the Concrete Collective are preparing to hire from the community.

McGee's family has deep roots in Woodlawn and he said he is eager to offer more union jobs with his firm to those sometimes overlooked by big construction jobs around Chicago.

"For a lot of people who have been left out and marginalized, this is a huge step up," he said.

"These are good jobs," said Stephanie Hickman, with Trice Construction. "A very direct access to the middle class and we know when people have access to these types of projects, it builds community."

Hickman is president of a company founded by her father and uncle in Englewood in the 60s. She said expertise her workers get, they can take with them to compete for other jobs.

"I'm very humbled, be it, it's been a long time coming and to actually see this first part of the project get starts now -- we really have to start running to be ready," Hickman said.

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Roughly 5,000 jobs are expected to be created by the project.

If you're wondering how to get those jobs, stay tuned to the Obama Foundation website for a job fair that will be held on September 11 at Kennedy King College.

The official groundbreaking is expected to happen next month. Construction is expected to take four years to complete.

Traffic Changes

Starting Monday, Cornell Drive will be narrowed from six lanes to four lanes between 59th Street and Hayes Drive and the easternmost block of South Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive will be permanently closed.

Drivers who previously used South Midway Plaisance to connect to Cornell Drive will be redirected to an alternative route. The center says that the long-term traffic plan for the area is for North Midway Plaisance to be converted to two-way traffic, and eastbound motorists will then be able to drive "up" North Midway Plaisance from Stony Island Avenue to Cornell Drive. There will be a new signalized intersection at North Midway Plaisance and Cornell Drive.