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The lawsuit brought against the Presidential Center has assigned defendants listed as: the city of Chicago, the Obama Foundation, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Protect Our Parks, an organization focused on environmental conservation and preservation in Chicago, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama Presidential Center on Wednesday April 21, 2021. The lawsuit is against the city of Chicago, the Obama Foundation, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The Obama Presidential Center is set to break ground in Jackson Park later this year.

The project will hold certifications like LEED v4 Platinum, SITES Silver and ILFI Zero Energy. At the time of this article, it was unknown if the project would also be Well Certified , or seek any passive certifications. The carbon-neutral project carries a budget of over $500 million, and has recently launched more aggressive fundraising efforts. Representatives of the Obama Foundation have classified this renowned museum as a superior world-class institution, disregarding remarks and criticism from founders, and also from members of the Protect Our Parks organization.

Ambassadors of the Obama Foundation have stated that they are ready to defend themselves against the lawsuit, considering that the proposal took three years of extensive consulting and supportive community engagement.

The Children’s Play Area
The Children’s Play Area

Obama Presidential Center: Background Information

In 2016, Barack Obama announced that the future presidential center would be located in Jackson Park, between Lake Michigan and Woodlawn, with a scheduled opening date in 2021. Many Chicago residents were optimistic about the project, hoping that the new museum could jump-start the economy while revitalizing troubled neighborhoods.

The multi-million dollar master plan includes the Obama Foundation offices, a museum, a public library branch, an athletic center, a space for outdoor recreation, an underground parking garage, a plaza, and a community garden.

Garden Programs Inspired by Mrs. Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden
Garden Programs Inspired by Mrs. Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden, the Obama Presidential Center’s Fruit & Vegetable Garden.

Roadblocks and obstacles are not something new for the Foundation:

  • In 2017, the project went under Section 106 federal review, since the center’s planned location of Jackson Park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The National Environmental Policy Act also evaluated the project’s potential impact on the environment, referencing Section 4(f).
  • These assessments eventually allowed the Obama Foundation to proceed with construction, since the project was not considered a significant environmental threat.

In 2018, Protect Our Parks President Herb Caplan sued the city of Chicago in an attempt to stop the project, claiming that officials are not authorized to transfer public park land to private entities. However, the court repealed Caplan’s allegations. Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes that the investment can unite Chicago and the South Side.

The estimated construction time of the Obama Presidential Center is approximately four years. During the construction state, it will be necessary to close Cornell Drive, Lake Shore Drive, and Hayes Drive. Over $174 million are being funded by the state, with expectations that the federal government will provide additional support.





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