WASHINGTON PARK — Washington Park stakeholders are assessing the fallout after the Obama Foundation chose to put the presidential library in Jackson Park instead of Washington Park.
On Wednesday, sources confirmed that Jackson Park had been selected over Washington Park for the library, dashing neighborhood hopes just as they had been in 2009 when Chicago’s dream of Olympics events at Washington Park ended.
Developer Ghian Foreman said he thought “absolutely property prices are about to go down because everyone was banking on the Obama library coming to Washington Park.”
He predicted property values would drop by as much as 25 percent.
If Foreman’s prediction comes true, it would be the third major hit to the struggling neighborhood’s property values in the last 10 years, which saw the real estate bubble pop, Olympics speculation dry up and now hopes of the Obama library dissipate.
Others in the neighborhood were more optimistic.
The Rev. Richard Tolliver of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, who has been involved in developing affordable housing in Washington Park, said that although he was disappointed Washington Park wasn't selected as the library site, "this is going to be an economic engine for Woodlawn and Washington Park.”
Tolliver said he didn’t buy the idea that property prices in Washington Park would drop again.
The University of Chicago predicted the library will be a $220 million economic jolt for the city and create 1,900 new jobs, most likely to benefit Hyde Park, Woodlawn and areas of South Shore near Jackson Park.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said the neighborhood will continue redevelopment plans that predate the Obama library.
“Washington Park and its residents are resilient, and we will continue the positive progress the neighborhood has shown over the years,” Dowell said.
The University of Chicago still owns substantial tracts of land on major thoroughfares of the neighborhood and has shown no signs of retreating from plans for an art center on Garfield Boulevard and other arts projects led by artist Theaster Gates.
For some, the conversation now turns back to how the neighborhood can work with the university to make sure the land is developed in a way that benefits residents.
“At the end the day, the area will be gentrified whether the library comes here or not,” said Daniel Habeel, CEO of the RTW Veteran’s Center, 5536 S. King Drive. “The announcement of the library doesn't change the trajectory of the area.”
Foreman, who has invested in property in the neighborhood since before the Olympics bid, said he will continue to work on developing residential and commercial projects in the area, like his plans for a data center in the former Schulze Bakery at 40 E. Garfield Blvd.
“I’m still long on Washington Park; I believe the infrastructure is there,” Foreman said.
He said the Obama library decision was upsetting, and he took the day off work after hearing the news.
After a day off, he'll get back to work as if the library was never an option, he said.
Contributing: Evan Moore
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