SOUTH SHORE — The Obama luster appears to have worn off for many South Side residents, with nearly 200 all finding at least some fault in plans for the Obama Presidential Center and other changes planned for Jackson Park.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) asked planners for the presidential center and the groups combining the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses to come out to the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive, Thursday night for a special encore presentation of plans for Jackson Park, where residents reacted almost exclusively with criticisms.
“They are presenting on what they are going to do and we can tweak it,” said Carol Parks, who is semi-retired and lives in Hyde Park. “We ask longstanding questions about green space, traffic and community benefits and we’re shown pictures of the Obamas and their children.”
She said she found it “arrogant” and “insulting.”
Corliss King of South Shore said she noticed the audience was mostly upset seniors with lots of free time and a willingness to wait three hours to voice their concerns, which to her signaled officials might now have a problem.
She said she has her own problems with the process.
King pulled up a text message she had just gotten from her 16-year-old daughter, who said she had witnessed a shooting at 6:45 p.m. at 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard while riding the No. 6 bus through Jackson Park.
“The kids are out in the street out here because they have nothing to do,” King said. “And we’re putting up more things that are untouchable to them.”
She said she has been frustrated that the needs of youths have been given only passing mentions, aside from a new golf caddie program at the golf course. She said she wants officials to come forward with a cohesive plan to address security and bringing in more young people.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) promised King and others in the audience that they were being heard by city officials and the projects’ planners.
“I wouldn’t be standing up here for 2½, going on three hours if it was a done deal,” Hairston said. “I’m here listening to you and they’re listening to you and that’s all that matters.”
An Obama Foundation spokeswoman said the foundation has appreciated the chance to participate in the meetings.
"We've received helpful feedback in this first round of public meetings — as well as through our online survey and smaller group meetings — that will help inform our future plans," the spokeswoman said. "We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the community."
Though block club presidents like Anne Holcomb in South Shore have now organized their members and started coordinating with clubs in other neighborhoods around the park, it’s unclear how many more public forums they will have before plans become finalized.
In order to start construction in 2018, the Obama Foundation wants to start the public portion of the city approval process in November and plans will likely need to be finalized in advance of those meetings for the requisite planning and zoning boards to give their approval.
The golf course is on a similarly aggressive track.
Brian Hogan of the Chicago Park Golf Alliance said it wants to get in the running for the PGA Tour’s 2021 BMW Championship. He said the PGA Tour will need to see finalized plans by early 2018 if Chicago is to be in the running. A successful partnership with the PGA Tour could bring with it a significant portion of the $30 million that is expected to be needed to pay for the course renovations, according to Hogan.
Planners working on a framework plan for Jackson Park, which will guide future changes to the park and is scheduled to be completed in October, are expected to return to the community for more focused meetings in the coming months, but none have been scheduled.