Obama Presidential Center groundbreaking: Former president, first lady to attend ceremony

ByEvelyn Holmes and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, September 24, 2021
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The Obamas are expected to attend a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday at the future site of the Obama Presidential Center.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A groundbreaking ceremony is expected to take place Tuesday afternoon at the future site of the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago's South Side.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife, former First Lady Michelle, will join Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot for the ceremony, according to the Obama Foundation.

In August, demolition of the Jackson Park track and athletic field where the library will be build began.

The project has faced years of pushback from park preservationists and community groups concerned by displacement. The $500 million facility is being built in Jackson Park on the South Side, not far from where the Obamas first met and had their family.

It's near the law school where President Obama taught, and only a few miles from where he worked as a community organizer, and where Michelle grew up.

It's also the area Obama represented in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004.

READ MORE: Obama Library project

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Obama Library renderings, Jan. 10, 2018
Courtesy of Obama Foundation

The center will not only house a museum, forum, public library and plaza, but also a playground and pedestrian and bike paths. The Obama Foundation hopes it will bring some 700,000 people to the South Sid eevery year.

Roughly 5,000 jobs are expected to be created by the project, and the Concrete Collective contracted two African American-owned firms to work on the site.

Construction is expected to take four years to complete.

The project spent several years undergoing a lengthy federal review and challenges from local groups. In September, the city adopted an ordinance for the Woodlawn neighborhood, mandating affordability requirements on all rental and for-sale housing. Still, some have ongoing concerns about the center's impct on poor Black and brown neighborhoods.

Traffic Changes

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.

ABC News' Robin Roberts will have an exclusive interview with President Obama on Good Morning America. Tune in to ABC7 on Tuesday starting at 7 a.m.