Former President Barack Obama visits Chicago Obama Presidential Center; new renderings released

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Friday, March 8, 2024
Barack Obama visits Chicago for update on Obama Presidential Center
Former President Barack Obama visited Chicago Thursday for a constriction update on the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former President Barack Obama was back in Chicago Thursday to get an update on his presidential center and museum.

New renderings have been released for the Obama Presidential Center's "programs and athletic center."

The Obama Presidential Center and campus occupies just over 19 acres and is located at 63rd Street and Stoney Island Avenue.

Despite the sharp-looking drawings, some community members still have concerns about how the massive facility will negatively impact longtime South Side residents.

There is an existence of a community benefits agreement for the Woodlawn neighborhood, but housing organizer Savannah Brown said she's seen huge rent increases and million-dollar homes being sold in the area since the project broke ground.

"We want to be excited about this center coming, because it's been said that it's a resource for the community, but it's hard to get excited about something that you know will likely push folks out on that," Brown said. "I've been living here for a long time."

The voiced apprehensions come as the Obama Foundation says former President Barack Obama previewed a two-story prototype of a digital media experience called "Power of Words." The installation will be one of several exhibits featured at the future museum.

At full height, the "Power of Words" display will be an 88-foot tall canvas built into the interior architecture of the museum and will be one of 50 video installations.

Obama Foundation officials announced plans to break ground on its programs and athletic center on Monday. The stand-alone 45-thousand square foot facility will house a basketball court, studios and meeting spaces.

RELATED | Stretch of road permanently closed in Jackson Park in preparation for Obama Presidential Center

While organizers said the building will serve as a hub for activities and gatherings for the community, some critics remain skeptical and not only want a housing preservation agreement for the south shore neighborhood residents, but also for the city-owned block near 63rd and Blackstone to set aside for affordable housing.

"If this center is going to be a resource for the neighborhood. It makes sense that those folks have pushed out, get that front row seat to that neighborhood, to the resource," Brown said.

When completed, the campus will have also include a Chicago Public Library branch, an indoor winter garden and a park-like space.

If the schedule holds, the programs and activity center, along with the parks space, should open in late 2025. The Obama Presidential Center Museum is scheduled to open in 2026.