Supporters of former President Barack Obama may want to stage a protest at the University of Chicago. More than 100 members of the college’s faculty have requested the Obama Foundation move the proposed library honoring the 44th president. Their reason being the present plan is “socially regressive.”
The contention is the Obama Presidential Center will not provide the “promised development or economic benefits” to surrounding neighborhoods. Faculty professors claim it will cost more than $100 million in state funds. Something that liberal-dominated Illinois government cannot afford.
A letter made public to the media states, “We are concerned that these are not the best ways to use public funds to invest in the future of Chicago.” It comes as a major shock to Obama supporters.
The faculty members may have a point. The library proposed would occupy large sections of two historic public parks, Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance. That would inevitably force their closure for Obama’s shrine in his adopted city.
The entire idea spells major traffic congestion in an area that can ill-afford such inconvenience. It would cause the closure of a major South Side artery, Cornell Avenue. The Obama Center administrators and planners had no immediate comment.
Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, was the catalyst for the letter being made public. He may be looking for work soon. Obama lectured at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.
The proposed Obama Center was supposed to be built on the crowded shore of Lake Michigan. It would sit next to a tourist favorite, the Museum of Science and Industry, right across the street from the University of Chicago campus.
The project would be partially financed with private donations. But the kicker is it will require as much as $100 million in infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area. That would be laid at the feet of Illinois taxpayers already suffering some of the highest tax rates in the nation.
Add to that economic development spurred by the library. It is considered to be limited. The professors write, “there is no available adjacent land in which to start a new business, set up a new café or restaurant, [or] bring another cultural center to the neighborhood.”
In summary, the only new jobs created by the library “will be staff to the Obama Center.” For land as valuable as the site proposed, that is a non-starter. Add to that the fact that the 21 acres annexed from Jackson Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and is “one of the most important urban parks in the nation.”
The site was obviously not thought out in detail. The professor’s letter noted that, “At a time of increasing complexity and pressure in urban life, Chicago should be dedicated to preserving our public parks as open areas for relaxation and play for all its citizens.”
It appears it’s back to the drawing board for the permanent site of Obama’s legacy. The Obama Foundation in essence has been urged “to explore alternative sites on the South Side that could be developed with more economic benefits, better public transportation, and less cost to taxpayers.”