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Obama Library's Wish List Is Long, But Who Will Pay For It All?

By Sam Cholke | June 21, 2017 2:56pm
 Former President Barack Obama announced plans for his presidential library at the South Shore Cultural Center.
Former President Barack Obama announced plans for his presidential library at the South Shore Cultural Center.
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Joshua Mellin

HYDE PARK — The Obama Foundation wants to build a new field house in Jackson Park as part of its plans for the Obama Presidential Center — one of several items on a lengthy list of amenities that raises questions about how everything will be paid for.

In a fact sheet released Wednesday ahead of a community meeting from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at the South Shore Cultural Center, the foundation itemized amenities it wants to include in the center’s campus.

Among those are a new field house with basketball courts, something advocates for the park have been requesting since before the center was considering Jackson Park.

Other plans would revive ideas for the park that had been shelved. Plans for a place for concerts, a farmers market and community events first proposed as part of a new visitors center by Project 120 for the eastern side of the park are now listed among the amenities the center wants to incorporate.

Sledding hills, a public garden, children’s play areas and walking and bike paths are also on in the works.

The foundation wants to close a section of Cornell Drive south of the Midway Plaisance to make room for all these amenities and move parking to the easternmost edge of the Midway, a section managed by the Chicago Park District but actually owned by the city.

The foundation said last week it expects construction to cost $350 million, lower than initial estimates of $380 million.

Which of the plans the foundation plans to cover has not been revealed publicly. The foundation has already said it doesn’t want to pay for the construction of the parking garage.

It is typical in large projects like the center for the city or state to pay for some infrastructure costs like adding or removing roads or water and sewer lines. But the cost estimates for removing large portions of Cornell Drive, as well as a separate plan to remove sections of Marquette Drive for the expansion of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, have not been released publicly yet.

A spokesman for the city transportation department was not immediately able to say whether there was any agreement yet about how much of the work the foundation would pay for.

A foundation spokeswoman said the foundation will pay for the new athletic center, but currently it is not expected to replace the existing Park District field house.

Park District officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Foundation officials are expected to provide more details Wednesday about what the foundation will pay for and where it will partner with the city and Park District on covering costs.


This map shows the proposed layout of the Obama Presidential Center campus after Cornell Drive is closed. [Obama Foundation]


The Obama Foundation wants to build a new field house for Jackson Park, which could replace the existing field house at 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. [DNAinfo/Evan Moore]