“Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects that accept federal funding on historic properties. The OPC’s construction will affect both Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, which are deemed historic properties and listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The webinar provided an opportunity for consulting parties such as the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, community activist groups, and other stakeholders to give feedback on the revised AOE report.
“During the webinar, Jackson Park Watch cofounder Margaret Schmid objected to the report’s conclusion that despite “adverse effects” on the historic integrity of Jackson Park and the Midway, their statuses on the NRHP will not be threatened. Schmid noted that this was a tentative conclusion reached by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Cultural Resources Unit, not a binding affirmation.
“Scott Craver, the editorial director of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, criticized the City for not making sufficient efforts to prevent adverse effects to the affected area’s historic integrity. Craver said that aside from the Obama Foundation’s decision not to build a parking garage on Midway, the City made no efforts to avoid adverse effects on Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance in the OPC design.
“Department of Planning and Development representative Eleanor Gorski responded to Craver’s criticism by citing modifications to the proposed OPC building, campus, and surrounding roadway design after the project’s initial proposal.
“The examples you gave show the opposite is true,” Craver said, mentioning that the height of the OPC building has been increased in the latest report, and that the proposed roadway modifications were declared to pose an adverse effect to the area.
“I can’t see evidence that the City has asked the Obama Foundation to do a single thing to avoid significant adverse effects, and I think the best evidence of that is the report the City just produced,” Craver said.
“Mary Lu Seidel, director of community engagement at Preservation Chicago, reiterated Craver’s concern. “There is no avoidance [of adverse effects] in this AOE, and there was no avoidance in the last AOE.”
“Seidel also inquired into the City’s involvement with the project. “Does it strike anyone, with all due respect to the City of Chicago, as a conflict of interest when this entire project has been approved by the City…yet they are serving as the lead organizer of this project?” (Gersony, Chicago Maroon, 1/28/20)
OPC Under Scrutiny: Federal, City, and Community Representatives Share Discourse; The City of Chicago held a webinar on its Assessment of Effects report on the Obama Presidential Center, Laura Gersony, The Chicago Maroon, 1/28/2020
“If the Obama Presidential Center had chosen a privately-owned development site… it would be open for visitors today,” wrote advocacy group Preservation Chicago. “The second choice option is across the street from Washington Park. It requires no federal review, no massive road rebuilding, and no special deals with [the] city of Chicago.” (Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 1/27/2020)
What’s going on with the Obama Center? Here’s where the $500M project stands.The feds found that the center will adversely affect Chicago’s parks and boulevards. This is what comes next, Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 1/27/2020