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Obama Campus Making Big Shift North As Officials Announce Garage Plans

By Sam Cholke | August 23, 2017 1:55pm
 The Obama Presidential Center is sticking to its pledge to only use 21 acres of land in Jackson Park — but acknowledged on Wednesday that the footprint for the plan had changed significantly and now includes 5 more acres of land next to the park for a garage.
The Obama Presidential Center is sticking to its pledge to only use 21 acres of land in Jackson Park — but acknowledged on Wednesday that the footprint for the plan had changed significantly and now includes 5 more acres of land next to the park for a garage.
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Obama Foundation

WOODLAWN — The Obama Presidential Center is sticking to its pledge to only use 21 acres of land in Jackson Park — but acknowledged on Wednesday that the footprint for the plan has changed significantly and now includes 5 more acres of land next to the park for a garage.

The Obama Foundation released site plans on Wednesday that show an expanded footprint for the center in Jackson Park that includes Cornell Drive and an area that is home to a perennial garden between the north and south lanes of the Midway Plaisance where it meets Cornell.

But to compensate for that additional land needed, the center will give back to the Chicago Park District southern sections of the park between 62nd Street and Hayes Drive that initially were slated to be part of the campus.

RELATED: Obama Foundation Revises Plan, Will Build Presidential Center Garage Itself

Obama officials confirmed the area was included on previous site plans to show where an existing football field and track would be relocated, but said they would no longer be using that land.

Officials said the center's footprint within Jackson Park will not grow beyond 21 acres.

However, the foundation on Wednesday also confirmed it now needs more than 4 acres of land outside the park, at the easternmost edge of the Midway Plaisance, for a parking garage. The foundation announced it will pay for the garage — a move officials told more than 100 community leaders at a closed-door meeting last week.

A Park District spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment on the plan to shift the footprint to the north.

Under a deal between the city and the Park District, any land not used for the campus will go back to the Park District.

“The foundation evaluates each proposal for the design of the [Obama Presidential Center] through the lens of supporting our surrounding community. Building a parking facility on the Midway continues the Obama Foundation’s goal of revitalizing Jackson Park and spurring economic activity across the South Side,” said David Simas, chief executive officer of the foundation, in a prepared statement. “With this proposal, we are increasing foot traffic within the community, not just in Jackson Park, and creating new park space for families to gather and play.”

Renderings show the parking garage will be two levels and largely above ground. Originally, the foundation had discussed building the garage underground, but the new renderings show it rising to a height slightly above the nearby Metra tracks.

The foundation said the garage will have a landscaped roof and a play or recreational area on its roof.

The garage itself will contain about 400 to 450 spaces and provide most of the parking for visiting tour buses and cars, which will enter on the Midway Plaisance North and leave on the Midway South.

More details about the changing site plan are expected to come later Wednesday when the Chicago Department of Transportation unveils its plans for accommodating the removal of sections of Cornell and Marquette Drive in the park.