Obama Presidential Center Hits Opposition as Critics Shed Doubt on Costs, Benefit to Chicago Area

Obama Presidential Center
Obama Foundation/YouTube

The proposed Obama Presidential Center in Chicago is facing opposition from critics who are doubtful that the center will improve the local area.

More than 100 professors and faculty members from the University of Chicago, where former President Barack Obama once taught, shared an open letter Monday stating that they, like many neighborhood residents and activists, think the Obama Center will not deliver “economic benefits” to Chicago’s South Side.

“We are concerned that rather than becoming a bold vision for urban living in the future it will soon become an object-lesson in the mistakes of the past,” the letter says.

The letter hammered the Obama Foundation’s plans to build a 450-space parking lot, saying that it is “socially regressive” because it privileges people who can afford to have a car.

“Parking is expensive, and though public lands are being given away, all the profits from this parking lot will go to the Obama Foundation,” the letter says. “None of the funds will go back to the City to improve train lines and public transportation infrastructure. Overall, this is a socially regressive plan.”

The letter also states that the center will cost Chicago taxpayers “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Other critics say that the use of government-owned land to build a private facility will hurt instead of help Chicago’s South Side neighborhood.

“We remain steadfast in our opposition to the confiscation of public parkland for the Obama Presidential Center, which is a private facility,”  Charles A. Birnbaum, President & CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, told Breitbart News Wednesday.

Obama released images of the proposed presidential center Tuesday in a YouTube video, showing a white, modern-looking building surrounded by parkland.

The complex would include a museum, a public plaza, a library, and an athletic center — highlighting the Obama administration’s priorities throughout Obama’s time in office.

However, the Obama Foundation announced that the proposed site on designated historic parkland would not be administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and would not function as a presidential library housing records, manuscripts, and papers from the Obama White House.

Instead, the proposed center would include a recording studio, basketball courts, and a children’s play garden.

“The people of Chicago were told they would get a presidential library administered by the National Archives, a federal facility, in exchange for the confiscation of historic parkland, listed in the National Register of Historic Places – instead, they’re getting a privately-operated entertainment campus with a 235-foot-tall tower, a recording studio, auditorium and sports facility, and other amenities,” Birnbaum said.

The Obama Foundation said in a statement that despite the criticism the organization has received about the project, the foundation appreciates the feedback and looks forward to working with the community to gain their support for the center.

“While we don’t expect everyone to agree with every element of the plan, we look forward to working with people across the community and the city to make the most of the opportunity to create a global destination that will showcase the South Side to the world,” a spokesperson for the Obama Foundation said.


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