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10 Ways Obama's Library Will Make Jackson Park More Magical

By Jen Sabella | May 3, 2017 4:02pm
 Obama has big plans for Chicago's South Side.
Obama has big plans for Chicago's South Side.
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White House Photo

SOUTH SHORE — Former President Barack Obama laid out his vision for his presidential library in Jackson Park Wednesday, and it's a bold one

Obama hopes the library and surrounding campus will revitalize the South Side park, making it rival Chicago tourist spots like Millennium Park and Lincoln Park. 

PHOTOS: Obama Library Design Plan Revealed 

How will he make that happen? Here are just a few things he pitched during a community presentation: 

1. A recording studio

Obama reiterated that his vision for the library campus went well beyond the traditional White House trinkets and documents. "We intend to have a music recording studio where I can invite Chance [The Rapper] or Bruce Springsteen, depending on your taste, to come here and talk about how you can record music that has social commentary and meaning," he said. 

Bruce Springsteen receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016. [White House]

2. A movie studio

Why stop at music? As part of his plan for community outreach and youth empowerment initiatives, Obama said "part of our design currently envisions us creating a studio where I can invite Spike Lee or Steven Spielberg to do workshops on how to make films around the stories that young activists are working on." 

Steven Spielberg [Shutterstock]

3. A sledding hill

One reason Obama said it's important to remove Cornell Drive is that he wants open space for kids to play freely — on their brand new sledding hill. "Michelle always told me she was mad that during the winter she couldn't sled because there was no hill down here,"  on the South Side, he said. 

South Side kids will get the sledding hill Michelle Obama always wanted. [Obama Foundation]

4. A live concert venue

Obama said he wants the library campus to be a "living center" where residents can take in a concert, explore the wooded island and just enjoy the neighborhood. He said places like Millennium Park already have this vibe, and now it can happen in Jackson Park. 


Music fans take in a show during Millennium Park's "Downtown Sound" summer series. 

5. A griller's paradise

Jackson Park already is a popular spot for cookouts, and that is one thing Obama does not want to change. He suggested taking an unused area across from the park at the end of the Midway Plaisance and turn it into a recreational area where people could grill. "Basically, during the winter, there's just a bunch of water and ice and mud," he said. "During the summer, nobody uses it. You could build ... a little recreational area on top of it. Put some barbecue grills — why are you laughing? That's what we do. Family reunions. We don't have any folks who grill here? I thought this was the South Side of Chicago. So we've got some grillers, put some grills up in here. You potentially create a  — everybody's laughing. I'm serious. I'm serious, you watch. Five years from now, when you're grilling over here ... you're going to remember this conversation." 

President Obama grills with chef Bobby Flay at the White House in 2009. [White House Photo]

6. A collection of Michelle Obama's dresses

With all the talk of green space and recording studios, Obama did not want anyone to get the wrong idea: There will still be a place to admire Michelle Obama's epic fashion sense. "And let's face it, you all want to see Michelle's dresses and ... you know, some of the campaign posters and ... you know, maybe there'll be some artifacts from the White House and the presidency."




7. Paddleboats, bike trails and food trucks along the lagoon

Hungry after your trip to the library? You'll be able to hit up a food truck nearby, if President Obama has his way. "You have bike trails going along the lagoon," he said. "You have food trucks. We decided we need some food trucks. You know ... we might get those little, those little paddleboats up in the lagoon. Potentially, the Museum of Science and Industry opens up its south face, so instead of just going, you go in underground, you come up, you go back out. Now on a nice day, you open that park and go through the museum, walk right out the back, walk along the lagoon and walk through our campus. Get a taco." 

Yeah, we know this is not a paddleboat. [White House Photo]

8. A new Chicago Public Library branch

Aside from the presidential library, South Siders could be getting a new public library branch, Obama said. "We're partnering with the Chicago Public Libraries to see if it makes sense for us to have a branch located in the campus. Libraries are different today than they used to be. Kids may not be going there to get books. Maybe it's computers. And we're doing digital training there." 

[White House Photo]

9. A new field house

"One of the things that we're also looking at is how we can redesign ... Hyde Park Academy and creating a new field house. Right now, frankly, we don't have one on the park," Obama said. One feature of that field house? "We'll have basketball," Obama said. 

[DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

10. Expansive community gardens

Though the library will take up more than 200,000 square feet, the Obama Foundation says there will ultimately be more green space in Jackson Park when the project is complete. There will be a large public garden, rooftop gardens and more.