President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have reportedly chosen Jackson Park as the site of the Presidential Center.
A source told Chicago Tribune on Wednesday about Jackson Park having won the placing of the Presidential Center, which is expected to make considerable changes to disadvantaged areas. It will be near the Museum of Science and Industry, which is located on the lakefront of the University of Chicago. The center would be close to either Lake Shore Drive or to two Metra train stations.
The western side of Jackson Park connects to Woodlawn, a disadvantaged African-American neighborhood that is slowly beginning to improve. Recent developments in the area have given the site an advantage over Washington Park neighborhood which has been long neglected.
Washington Park or Jackson Park?
Washington Park is home to a declining population where a third of the land is unoccupied. The area was once the hub of Chicago’s Black Belt, a collective of neighborhoods that brought African-Americans from the South during the Great Migration. However, since then the number of residents has significantly lessened, and those who still live there do so in poverty and affected by sky-high crime rates.
The hope of Washington Park was in the hands of the city’s 2016 Olympic Games bid, which was believed going to contribute to bettering the area. However, in 2009, Washington lost the bid, and the residents have yet to witness the improvements they long-awaited.
What a Presidential Center in Jackson Park may mean
This will be the first time in US history that a president chooses an impoverished neighborhood to be the home of his archives and museum. There have been claims that the center could define Obama’s legacy once he has left office. Activists of Woodlawn neighborhood are completing an extensive improvement plan they hope will ensure better public transport, a manufacturing facility, retail development and affordable housing in the area. The project is headed by the Arthur M. Brazier Foundation, named after the late pastor of the community’s Apostolic Church.
The architects chosen to design the center are Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, along with the assistance of Interactive Design Architects, based in Chicago. Billie Tsien will be the first woman to co-design a presidential library. The architectural duo designed the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts which opened in 2012.
The University of Chicago proposed both Jackson and Washington Parks as an effort to bring the library to the South Side. The establishment conducted a study demonstrating that if successful, the project could potentially generate $31 million in food and retail development close to the neighborhood. This would mean 30 restaurants, 11 stores and a hotel in the area. Such improvements will increase tourism, which will go hand in hand with the number of employment posts that will be created by the renovations. Furthermore, increased jobs can mean more opportunities for children to receive a quality education and exit a vicious poverty cycle.
However, the site has neither been confirmed or denied by Martin Nesbitt, chairperson of the Obama Foundation. An official announcement will be given in the week to come.
Source: Chicago Tribune