Obama Presidential Center and Library Will Break Ground in September 2021

The opening in Chicago was delayed because of a lawsuit and a federal review.

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The Obama Presidential Center and its accompanying library will finally have a groundbreaking ceremony in Chicago in late September 2021.

The events will be divided into two days, concluding with an in-person groundbreaking with former U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker at the site of the presidential library on Sept. 28. This will be livestreamed.  

The Obamas made the announcement in a video released on Sept. 24:

The center and library have been at the center of controversy.

One lawsuit filed by nonprofit Protect Our Parks (POP) and other plaintiffs sued to block the initial construction started back in April. POP has been opposing the center for a number of years on environmental grounds. The lawsuit argued that federal authorities should have relocated the campus in order to protect the surrounding environment. But in August, a federal appeals court denied their efforts to preemptively block construction. Valerie Jarrett, president of the Obama Foundation, called the decision “a major victory that has been years in the making.” 

A federal review also took place in 2017, because of the Obamas’ decision to place the presidential center’s campus in Jackson Park, which is in the National Register of Historic Places. The review, which assessed the impact of the project on historic properties, concluded in February 2021, and gave the project the go-ahead.

The $700 million center will consist of a presidential museum and library, a branch of the Chicago Public Library, offices for the Obama Foundation, a park and athletic center. A video from the Obama Foundation, the nonprofit set up by the Obamas to oversee his post-presidential initiatives including the creation of the center, describes the library: 

 
Obama described the center as being a focal point for young people, and the foundation says it will create jobs and more tourism in Chicago’s predominantly Black South Side neighborhood. Jarrett said, “Having grown up on the South Side while seeing historic investment on the North Side and disinvestment on the South Side, we have an opportunity to weave the city together both physically and symbolically.”

The whole project is estimated to take around five years to complete. 


Sources: 

“Documents Detail New Cost for Obama Presidential Center.” NBC Chicago, https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/documents-detail-new-cost-for-obama-presidential-center/2595781/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.

“Court Rejects Bid to Halt Building of Obama Presidential Center.” Reuters, 16 Aug. 2021, https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/court-rejects-bid-halt-building-obama-presidential-center-2021-08-16/.

 
“Feds Give Obama Presidential Center Green Light After 4-Year Review.” WTTW News, https://news.wttw.com/2021/02/03/feds-give-obama-presidential-center-green-light-after-4-year-review. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.
 
Kapos, Shia. “‘It’s Been Hard Opposing Barack Obama.’” POLITICO, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/08/03/obama-presidential-center-chicago-park-protest-501946. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.
 
Merica, Dan. “Obamas Set to Oversee Groundbreaking of Presidential Library next Week.” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/24/politics/obama-presidential-library-groundbreaking/index.html. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.
 
Yin, Alice. “Obama Presidential Center Faces New Lawsuit the Same Day as Pre-Construction Work in Jackson Park Begins.” Chicagotribune.Com, https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-obama-presidential-center-pre-construction-jackson-park-20210414-i3vf262oejhmtcb4csp63jtp6q-story.html. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.