Obama Center prep construction work to kickoff in Jackson Park

Obama Center prep construction work to kickoff in Jackson Park

A $200 million package of park and infrastructure work was outlined Wednesday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker. | Provided by the Obama Foundation

Lightfoot and Pritzker on Wednesday rolled out a $200 million package of park and infrastructure work and programs to spark economic development on the South Side.

The first construction work related to the Obama Presidential Center in historic Jackson Park is starting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzer announced Wednesday.

The groundbreaking for the complex will likely be in September, according to the Obama Foundation. Foundation Board Chair Marty Nesbitt said ex-President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle will attend the groundbreaking and “they will spend time here at the center.”

“There has never been a better time to invest on the South Side,” Lightfoot said at the news conference held outside on the grounds of the Museum of Science and Industry.

The master plan calls for closing roads in the park so the Obama Center and MSI are connected into one campus from Stony Island Avenue east to Lake Michigan.

While the multibuilding presidential complex covers 19.3 acres of the park, the overall plan that developed calls for a massive retooling of adjacent roads running in and around the park, including closing Cornell Drive between Hayes Drive and 59th Street. The six-lane roadway will become parkland.

Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue will be widened to take on the anticipated extra traffic.

While Obama is raising money through his foundation to pay for building his center — estimated to cost about $500 million — there is also substantial public spending in the pipeline related to development.

Lightfoot and Pritzker rolled out a $200 million package of park and infrastructure work and programs to spark economic development on the South Side where former first lady Michelle was raised and where Obama started his political career as a state senator from a district anchored in Hyde Park. Most of the money is from the state with the city putting up an unspecified amount. Lightfoot said there will be a push for some federal funds to help pay for the projects.

The initial transportation improvements in and around Jackson Park will be funded through $174 million of state money.

There has been an enormous concern that residents around the Obama Center will be priced out of their homes, and already real estate prices have increased in anticipation of the center.

Lightfoot announced a $10 million Woodlawn Revolving Loan fund to make home improvements and a $100 million commitment to overhaul the western approach to the Obama Center on 63rd Street. A “complete” renovation of the Green Line station and a new federally qualified health care center are also planned.

Banks participating in the Woodlawn Revolving Loan Fund are, according to City Hall, JP Morgan Chase Bank, CIBC, Fifth Third Bank, Byline Bank, First Midwest Bank, Wintrust Bank and TCF Bank.

Most of the tree cutting needed to clear space for the presidential center will begin in the fall so as not to disrupt bird migration patterns.

Groundbreaking for the center has been delayed for years because of a federal review needed because Obama decided to place his center in a historic park. The review started in 2017 and recently concluded.

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