WOODLAWN — Calls for a more cohesive plan binding the disparate projects in Jackson Park intensified significantly this week.
On Monday, 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston released a letter calling on the Obama Foundation to start talking more publicly about its plans for Barack Obama’s presidential library and how it will impact other plans for the park, particularly redesigning the golf course.
"Obviously. the foundation has the last word, but it is imperative to forge a working relationship that is transparent, honest, respectful, productive and protective of the African-American legacies of the the [Obama Presidential Center], residents and these communities," the alderman wrote.
“They should be planned together,” Hairston said. “They are both a part of Jackson Park, and residents would like to have a comprehensive picture of how transportation, park use and recreation will be addressed.”
She said the foundation has also not done enough to address questions from the community about what benefits like jobs, contracts and educational opportunities will come as a result of developing the library.
“Without communication from the foundation, this can be detrimental to the [Obama Presidential Center] and the City of Chicago,” Hairston said. “This is not what anybody wants or what the foundation needs.”
Early Tuesday, Michael Strautmanis, vice president for civic engagement for the Obama Foundation, said the foundation agrees with Hairston and welcomes her ideas and input from the community.
"While our work has only just begun, we are committed to gathering robust community input at every step of the process," Strautmanis said.
He said the library will be transformative for the community, creating jobs and spurring economic development across the area.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the city, Aldermen Hairston and [Pat] Dowell and the South Side community to develop and refine our plans," Strautmanis said.
Hairston and the Jackson Park Advisory Council started expressing increasing concern about how much planning was being done for the park behind closed doors after a proposal to close Cornell Drive south of 60th Street was floated to community leaders privately last week.
The Jackson Park Advisory Council, a volunteer group, voted Monday for the creation of a new coordinating committee to oversee all of the plans.
“It seems to me all of these things should be coming together in a general plan,” said Jerry Levy, a member of the council who proposed the new panel.
He suggested the Chicago Park District, Hairston, the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, Friends of the Parks, the Jackson Park Advisory Council, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Jackson Park Watch and the Obama Foundation each have a member on the committee.
Michael Ruemmler of the golf alliance said his group, which is in charge of fundraising and community outreach for the plan to combine the South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses, would join the coordinating committee.
Invitations are expected to be offered soon to the other potential coordinating committee member groups.
Hairston's letter to the Obama Foundation follows: