After five years of legal battles, concerns about gentrification and a federal review, Barack and Michelle Obama were expected to attend the inauguration of their legacy project in a Chicago lakefront park on Tuesday.
Construction on the site along Lake Michigan near the Obama family home and where the former president began his political career on Chicago’s south side officially began last month. Work on the Obama Presidential Center is expected to take about five years.
The Obamas were scheduled to host an event, to be streamed online to limit crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Governor of Illinois. JB Pritzker.
“With your help, we can make this center a catalyst for economic opportunity, a new world-class destination on the South Side, and a platform for youth to drive change,” Obama said in a video announcement ahead of the inauguration.
The presidential center, which will be located on 19 acres of the 540-acre Jackson Park, will be unique among presidential libraries.
Obama’s presidential documents will be available in digital format. The sprawling center of the campus will include a museum, a public library, a sports center, a test kitchen and a children’s play area.
The initial cost of the center was projected at $ 500 million, but documents released by the Obama Foundation last month showed that it is now approximately $ 830 million. The funds are raised through private donations.
Progress at the center has been delayed due to lawsuits and a federal review is required due to the location of Jackson Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. At the same time, fears of displacing black residents in the area escalated into a years-long battle that resulted in city-approved neighborhood protections, including for affordable housing.
Obama chose Chicago over several cities, including Honolulu, where he spent his early years. The former president has said he hopes the center will help boost the economic engine of the city’s South Side.
It is a part of the city that has a special meaning for the Obamas. The center is near the University of Chicago, where Obama taught law and where the Obamas married and raised two daughters. Michelle Obama also grew up on the South Side.
“When it came time to plan for the Obama Presidential Center, we wanted to give something back to the place that gave us so much,” Michelle Obama said in a video announcement.
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