Lawsuit Blocking Obama Presidential Center Dismissed

John Hill
19. June 2019
Photo courtesy of the Obama Foundation

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from Protect Our Parks, a group opposing the construction of the Obama Presidential Center on publicly owned land on Chicago's South Side.

The June 11 ruling is good news for the Obama Foundation as well as the team behind the design of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), led by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners with Interactive Design Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. While the dismissal means the project — delayed one year by the lawsuit — can get back on track for its targeted groundbreaking this year and opening in 2022, the foundation still needs to complete a federal review before construction can start.

In his ruling last week, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey wrote that the OPC will "surely provides a multitude of benefits to the public. It will offer a range of cultural, artistic, and recreational opportunities … as well as provide increased access to other areas of Jackson Park." The project's location in Jackson Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the years leading up to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, was the source of the lawsuit, even though the design team appears to have tried to assuage concerns by integrating the landscape into the roofs of the partly subterranean buildings.

Protect Our Parks, which wants the planned OPC moved from its nearly 20-acre site in Jackson Park to private land, said it will appeal. The Cultural Landscape Foundation, also opposed to the OPC in the park, remained positive in a statement: "There are still federal-level reviews underway for this nationally significant work of landscape architecture that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places."

The OPC, though not involved in the lawsuit, said in a statement: "We are thrilled with the City’s victory and grateful to all of those in Chicago and beyond who have believed in this project and made their voices heard every step of the way. Our vision for the Obama Presidential Center has always been one where the location reinforces the project’s core aims: a celebration of history, a place of connection and engagement for the public, and an investment in community. We couldn’t be more excited to move forward on our plans..."

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