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$10 for 99-Year Lease: Chicago Gifts Part of Historic Jackson Park to ‘Obama Center’

Former President Barack Obama points out features of the proposed Obama Presidential Center, which is scheduled to be built in nearby Jackson Park, during a gathering at the South Shore Cultural Center on May 3, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Presidential Center design envisions three buildings, a museum, library and …
Scott Olson/Getty
WARNER TODD HUSTON

The now outgoing Rahm Emanuel administration is touting a deal to give away about 20 acres of historic Jackson Park to the controversial “Obama Center” for the tiny payment of $10 for a 99-year lease.

Despite multiple lawsuits seeking to stop the destruction of the historic city park and increasing federal inquiries into the backroom deals between Chicago politicians and Barack Obama’s presidential center, city officials are going full steam to give the go-ahead for the former president’s project, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Two controversial moves were announced by the city, one being the $10 price tag for the 99-year lease. The second was a city ordinance allowing the Obama Center to destroy a section of Cornell Drive, a move that has upset many Chicagoans.

Despite the new provisions, though, the Obama Center is dead in the water until a series of federal reviews of the deals made between the city and the Obama Foundation is complete.

Unfortunately, the agreement to suspend construction until the reviews are done did not come in time to save dozens of hundred-year-old trees in the park that the city cut down despite claims that no major changes would occur to other areas of the park.

The Chicago Park District began destroying the massive trees to make room for construction of a new athletic track that is necessary to replace the one that will be eliminated when the Obama Center takes over the 20 acres targeted for the president’s building.

City activists were outraged when the city began removing the stand of trees despite claims that the Obama Center would not disrupt any areas other than the 20 acres set aside for its construction.

The city soon put an end to the construction of the new athletic track in the face of threats of further lawsuits.

Meanwhile, others are furious that the Obama Center is gobbling up $244 million in tax dollars despite the initial claim that the project would all be paid for by private funds.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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