In early 2015, four universities submitted bids to host the Presidential Library of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States of America. The University of Chicago proposed situating the Library on the South Side of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago on the westside, the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, and Columbia University on its Manhattan campus in New York. In May 2015, the Obama Foundation and mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the Obama Presidential Center would be located in the southside of Chicago, built in partnership with the University of Chicago. In the summer of 2016, Jackson Park was chosen as the future site of the Obama Presidential Library.
Since the Jackson Park site was chosen there has been, and will continue to be, extensive planning and public engagement. Here is a list describing the past and future meetings involving the public planning and approval process of the OPC, including links to any available presentations or press releases. The 14 public meetings held since summer 2017 are are highlighted in green. (Information taken from the city of Chicago website here.)
The Protect our Parks
The Protect Our Parks (POP) lawsuit was filed in federal court on May 14, 2018 against the City of Chicago and Park District. The plantiffs, Charlotte Adelman, Maria Valencia, and Jeremiah Jurevis are not residents of the South Side. The lawsuit charges that the plan to lease 19 acres of Jackson Park over to the Obama Foundation for use as the site of the OPC is illegal; for more details about the genesis and progress of this case please refer to some of the news reports on this case, you can find an early summary here in the Chicago Reader and a later article here in the Tribune. There have been several legal experts that have also weighed in, you can see a commentary by UChicago’s Lior Strahilevitz here.
On November 21st, 2018, the City filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction (and several other reasons) because the municipal approval process is now complete. The motion and memorandum filed by the City explain how there have been municipal authorizations approving aspects of the project and regulating the use of the site, including City ordinances controlling the size and layout of the buildings on the site and governing the OPC’s nature and operations.
On Nov 28th, 2018, three amicus briefs were filed in support of the City and Park District (click here to see our summaries and links to the original briefs). These briefs came from all the current Chicago Museums in the Parks, the 13 US Presidential Libraries/Museums and 7 Law Professors that specialize in property law. From the perspective of our counsel, these are pretty solid and thorough arguments for the Court to dismiss the POP complaint.
On January 15th, three amicus briefs were filed in support of the POP plantiffs; these come from two small activist groups (Jackson Park Watch and Preservation Chicago); New York based Charles Birnbaum (The Cultural Landscape Foundation); and Richard Epstein, an emeritus law professor at UChicago and member of the conservative Hoover Institution think tank and Federalist Society. All have either been vocal opponents of the OPC in Jackson Park, and/or critics of the Obama Administration. We have also provided summaries and assessment of these briefs here.