Obama unveils plans and design for South Side presidential center

May 04, 2017

Barack and Michelle Obama swung by the South Side Wednesday to unveil the newest plans for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

While political players like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton were in attendance at the design unveiling, Obama took a laid back approach while addressing a crowd at the South Shore Cultural Center. In a casual question and answer session with the center’s architect Dina Griffin and Obama Foundation vice president of Civic Engagement Mike Strautmanis, Obama assured attendees this development would be an open one.


“This is just the beginning of the process,” Obama said. “This is not the end. We’re going to be continually in conversations with the community about how we make this work for you.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the center will hire between 200 and 300 employees and create up to 1,500 jobs during construction. Meanwhile, the actual center will have a campus that includes classrooms, labs and outdoor spaces.

Obama said while many former presidents often build a presidential library, he wanted his center to be more about the community’s future instead of a tribute to his legacy.
“It’s a look forward and that’ why it’s called a center and not a library,” Obama said.


Obama expects the center will take up about 225,000 square feet of Chicago’s Jackson Park just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. The campus hosts a large museum and walkways as depicted through drawings and a miniature model presented at the center. The Obamas expect the project to be completed in early 2022 and the Chicago Tribune reports a spokesman said it’s too early to tell how much the whole thing will cost.

The Obamas said they would donate $2 million toward community projects.

Obama, who lived in Illinois for more than 20 years, said that while his committee also looked at places like New York and Hawaii for the center’s location he couldn’t imagine it going anywhere else.

“I owe it all to this community,” Obama said. “All those we had a very formal bidding process to decide where this was going to be, the fact of the matter was it had to be right here on the South Side of Chicago.”

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