“On August 16, the Obama Foundation started work on the Obama Presidential Center, but without the fanfare that one might expect. Over the past five years, the Center’s South Side Chicago location has prompted multiple lawsuits and a recent Supreme Court petition.
“It’s not that Chicagoans don’t want the Center—many seem excited for the economic opportunities it will bring. Rather, opponents, like the non-profit organization Protect our Parks, do not want the Center built in Jackson Park, where they say it will cause ‘”irreparable’ environmental harm.
“Positioned between the University of Chicago and Lake Michigan, Jackson Park is a 550-acre green space in the southeastern edge of the city, used for everything from family get-togethers to sporting events.
“The park’s lush tree canopy is a refuge from the sweltering summer heat, which has been growing increasingly worse due to climate change. Trees can reduce local temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. ‘We go [to Jackson Park] to be cooler, to be comfortable as we hang out,’ Jeannette Hoyt, director of CCAM Research Partners and former resident of the area, told EHN, adding that many of the nearby residents can’t afford air conditioning. Hoyt is not affiliated with Protect our Parks.
“However, if the Center’s construction continues as planned, some of those trees will come down. According to a 2020 Environmental Assessment of the area conducted by the National Park Service, the project will remove 326 trees at the site of the Center, along with an additional 463 trees due to project-related construction, including transportation improvements and relocation of the park’s track and field.
“Aside from their cooling effect, the environmental benefit of trees in this area also include the removal of roughly 22 tons of carbon dioxide and 342 pounds of air pollution each year, according to a 2018 survey of the area. The latter is especially important in a city that is ranked as the 16th most polluted city in the US for ozone pollution and whose asthma rates surpass national averages.
“Protect Our Park and other community members are pushing for the Center to be relocated to nearby Washington Park. ‘It’s relatively treeless,’ said Hoyt, who points out that there are also many vacant lots in the area that the Foundation could build on.
“‘It would bring the same amount of jobs [and] it would bring more tourism” since it’s near a major train line, she added. ‘And we get to save…our safe space’ and the environmental benefits it provides. (Vasquez, Environmental Health News, 8/31/21)
Obama Presidential Center will displace vital South Side Chicago trees, advocates say; The Center will remove hundreds of trees that provide cooling in the summer, cleaner air, and a quiet respite for residents—but promises to re-plant the area and provide an economic boost, Krystal Vasquez, Environmental Health News, 8/31/21
Obama Presidential Center Construction Officially Begins In Jackson Park; After years of delays, the Obama Foundation and the city have finally started to build the presidential center in Jackson Park and overhaul the area’s road layout, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 8/16/21
PGA-level golf near the Obama Center? Backers of a plan to turn two courses on Chicago’s South Side into a Tiger Woods-designed layout have new hope that it could happen, A.D. Quig, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/2/21