Celebratory groundbreaking is expected to take place on Tuesday marking the start of the construction of Obama’s presidential center following a 5-year-long legal battles, gentrification concerns and a federal review period.
According to the latest reports, the Obama Presidential Center is expected to be finished in about five years from now and will cost nearly $830 million, $330 million more than initially announced.
Barack Obama started his political career on Chicago’s South Side just where the center is going to be located along Lake Michigan, near the Obama home.
The event that was scheduled by the Obama’s will be streamed online as a result of the current pandemic measures. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker will attend the event hosted by the Obamas.
Barack Obama told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview broadcast Tuesday that he hopes the center will bring an economic boost to Chicago’s South Side and also inspire the area’s young people.
“There’s young people who are enormously talented but often forgotten and so for us to be able to build a world-class institution that will attract millions of people hopefully will send a signal that those young people count, those young people matter,” he said.
According to the project, the presidential center will sit on 19 acres (7.7 hectares) of the 540-acre (291-hectare) Jackson Park, will be unique among presidential libraries.
Reportedly, the huge campus will include a museum, public library branch, athletic center, test kitchen and children’s play area. When open, the visitors will be able to see Obama’s presidential papers in digital form only.
The whole project is funded by private donations through the Obama Foundation.
Progress on the center has been delayed by lawsuits and a federal review required because of the location of Jackson Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. At the same time, fears about displacing Black residents in the area developed into a years-long battle resulting in city-approved neighborhood protections, including for affordable housing.
When initially panned, Barack Obama had multiple cities in option for the project including Honolulu where he was born and spend the first five years, but he decided the project to be done in Chicago where he lives and spends the most of his time.
“Part of the reason we’re here is just about everything that’s important to me in my life started here,” Obama said in the “Good Morning America” interview.
Michelle Obama said in a video announcement that when it came time to plan the Obama Presidential Center the couple “wanted to give something back to the place that gave us so much.”