WASHINGTON PARK — Washington Park residents have delivered to University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer a list of 20 things they want if the Barack Obama presidential library comes to the neighborhood.
Washington Park is one three sites the university put forward as a possible site in its Dec. 11 bid for the library and has spent more than $18 million to buy 26 properties near Garfield Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive the neighborhood in the last six years.
“We don’t need them to stop, we just need them to do something for the community,” said Cecilia Butler, president of the Washington Park Advisory Council and the Washington Park Residents’ Advocacy Council, who said she hand-delivered the list to Zimmer on Dec. 8.
The 20-item list includes things like asking the university to fence off its property in Washington Park, identify the organizations it’s using to acquire property and share its plans for the community with residents.
A representative from the university was not immediately available to comment.
“If we don’t say something, everyone will assume everything is OK and everything is not necessarily OK,” Butler said.
She said the group started drafting the agreement more than a year ago, before the Obama library was even a consideration, because of a lack of communication between the university and parks advocates and neighborhood residents.
She said the university has not been to any advisory council meetings to address the large signs for the university installed in the park nearly three years ago, the large number of university employees that park in the park or the university’s real estate projects just west of the park.
Butler said she was not opposed to university projects in Washington Park, like the Arts Incubator at 301 E. Garfield Blvd. But she said she felt the projects were announced without any discussion about whether a gallery would be the best use of university resources in the community.
The university did hold a series of meetings over the summer and fall at the arts incubator about how it should expand its arts and culture initiatives in Washington Park.
“We do not want to continue to be a stepchild in this broken social contract in our community,” says the letter to Zimmer attached to the list. “You treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated, nothing less.”
Butler said at a Saturday meeting at the Washington Park field house, 5531 S. Martin Luther King Drive, that about 75 Washington Park residents contributed to the list since it was started in November 2013.