- What initially started out as a library has morphed into a 20-acre private “center,” and some environmentalists and historians are unhappy with the Obama Foundation’s plans to swoop in and take over a national historic place.
- The Obama Foundation shared dozens of changes to its proposal, including road closures within the park, a revamping of the picturesque landscaping, and a newly designed main building would stretch 23 stories high at 235 feet tall.
- This isn’t just any public open space; this is historic parkland originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and Calvert Vaux (of New York’s Central Park fame),” the organization’s website states. The park system was designed in 1871, and Olmsted wrote in 1895 that the Museum of Science and Industry was intended to be the only “dominating object of interest” in the park.
- 200 faculty members from Obama’s former employer, the University of Chicago, issued a formal letter last Monday stating its opposition to the presidential center being built at this location.
The Obama Foundation originally said it would house a presidential library on the property and vowed to have the National Archives oversee the facility because of its placement on public land. But that’s no longer the case, and some are balking at the change in plans.
“Here’s our bottom line. If the Obama Foundation wishes to construct this center on Chicago’s South Side, that’s fine, but not on parkland held in public trust. The University of Chicago, which orchestrated the winning bid for the project, has plenty of land on the South Side that they could and should use. Instead, they’ve been adamant since day one that they must have historic public parkland for the purpose,” Charles Birnbaum, president and founder of D.C.-based nonprofit, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, told the Washington Examiner in a written statement Saturday.