As people who are concerned about our communities and parks, we have substantial HOPE that the South Side, like other neighborhoods in the city, will be a safe, clean, and culturally rich place where families, students, seniors and many others will want to live.. We do not believe that building this stronger community is the sole responsibility of the Obama Foundation or of the OPC, but rather that it must come from community members working together with elected officials to make sure that progress serves the majority of the South Side residents by making our communities stronger, cleaner and safer and at the same time making our Parks the best they can be, for all people of Chicago. Here is a visual summarizing the anticipated economic impact that the construction, maintenance and tourism the OPC will bring to the Southside.
We believe the plans for the OPC will be the spark of this transformation, adding significant amenities to Jackson Park including publicly accessible nature walks, meeting and performance places, and a new branch of the Chicago Public Library. These additions will attract people of all ages to the Park and give our residents, particularly our youth, reasons to learn about our first African American president and the history of the Southside in that process. The close proximity of the OPC to the Museum of Science and Industry will only increase the exposure of our residents, old and young, to educational programs to empower and enrich them in all areas of their lives. As discussed on our Closing Cornell page, the plans for the OPC will reunify Jackson Park and at the same time, make it accessible for children, seniors and those with disabilities. Because the City of Chicago (and therefore the public) will own the buildings and site (see our discussion of the Land Use Agreement here), this ensures the OPC will be publicly accessible parkland in perpetuity. Below is a map of the proposed OPC plans, with descriptions of some of the key elements to the site (adapted from the Obama Foundation website, here).
To see some of the initiatives the Obama Foundation has created for direct community/youth benefit, go here.
1) Museum: The Museum will serve as a historic landmark in Jackson Park, welcoming visitors to South Side and the Center. Its lower floors will house exhibitions that tell the Obamas’ story within the context of history: civil rights history, African-American history, the history of Chicago, and United States history. The rest of the building will be filled with other public spaces, including a top floor, free and open to the public, that will feature a reflective observation space with spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Jackson Park.
2) The Forum: The Forum is a two-story public meeting space where people of all backgrounds can come together for programming. Visitors might take in a performance in the auditorium, create something in the broadcast studio, visit the public winter garden, or grab a bite to eat in the restaurant. Like much of the Campus, the majority of this space will be free and open to the public.
3) The Plaza: The Museum, Forum, and Library Buildings will wrap around a community-facing public plaza that will act as another gateway into the park. The plaza is a public space for the local community — a place for informal and planned gatherings alike. It will host performances of all types, from celebrations honoring local figures to markets and fairs. There will be play areas, walking paths, and even a sledding hill.
4) The Library: The Library Building is the third main building of the campus — a portal for visitors to engage with the world beyond the Obama Presidential Center. The Foundation is partnering with the Chicago Public Library to bring a new 5,000-square-foot public library branch to Jackson Park. As a Chicago Public Library, it will house a multimedia collection with a focus on civic engagement and conduct programming to engage community members. The initial vision for the library includes spaces for reading and study (including homework help) that can be converted to open seating for programs and events; a dedicated children’s area and space for a program called YOUmedia, which lets teens explore the world and their own creativity using new technologies; and meeting space that will be available for public use. Adjacent to the library, the Foundation plans to include a special collections reading room, which may host a rotating series of small exhibits.
5) The Program and Athletic Center: The Program & Athletic Center will invite the community to take part in physical activity year round, highlighting the importance of teamwork and exercise through sports. It will provide opportunities for programming partnerships with local institutions, including Hyde Park Academy, the South Side YMCA, and the Chicago Park District Field House.
Economic Impact of the OPC for the South Side
An economic analysis suggests that the construction and maintenance of the OPC as well as the tourism it will draw will have significant economic benefits for the southside communities. Below is a summary of this analysis, which you can find here.
It is estimated that the OPC would result in an economic impact of $2.1 billion during the construction period and first ten years of operations, with $339 million in economic impact and 1,407 direct, indirect and induced jobs created during construction. After its opening, the OPC would generate an annual economic impact of $177 million and 2,175 direct, indirect and induced jobs on the South Side.
Across the South Side, there are numerous investments that are currently not modeled but may positively affect the underlying economy. The decisions of private companies and other organizations to relocate to the South Side could significantly increase the overall economic impact of the OPC. This pattern has been observed with other presidential centers.
Among the elements that have the most potential to be transformative for the City of Chicago and the South Side is the number of people who will come to visit the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), and, with the right mix of opportunities, stay to explore the South Side.
Increased visitor expenditures and increased income are estimated to generate increased taxes for the city and state.
The very first programmatic effort by the Obama Foundation kicked off in Greater Grand Crossing at the Inaugural Training Day in October 2017. President Obama dropped by Gary Comer Youth Center to surprise the program participants. In the same month, Michelle Obama visited Hyde Park Academy High School with Prince Harry to talk to students. Since then, the Foundation has initiated several additional community/youth initiatives, they are discussed briefly below. Click on their names for links to the website.
The Foundation held their inaugural Community Leadership Corps (CLC) in Chicago in summer 2018. The kickoff event for the Corps was held at Malcolm X College and the Bootcamp portion was held at DePaul. The majority of the participants identified the South side as their 'home' or 'community'.
Obama Youth Jobs Corps (OYJD), was created in partnership with Urban Alliance to increase access to economic opportunity for high school students in some of the most underserved communities in Chicago. The CORPS promotes workforce readiness via training and direct work experience at businesses throughout the city. OYJC gives students the skills, experience, and exposure needed to succeed.
The Public Internship Program offers internships to undergraduates and graduate students looking to gain experience working with the Obama Foundation in their Chicago and DC offices.