The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a final Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the Section 106 review of the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park last week. The publication of the MOA indicates that after three years of presentations, meetings with stakeholders and meetings with the public, one of two major federal reviews of the OPC project is now reaching its conclusion.

The proposed construction of the OPC in Jackson Park triggered two major Federal reviews of the project’s effects. 

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 review’s purpose is to consider the effects of the construction of the OPC (including associated changes in roadways) on historic properties. The Section 106 review commenced on December 1, 2017.  

The MOA, which was made public on the city of Chicago’s website, consists of measures proposed to alleviate some of the adverse effects that the construction of the OPC will have on areas of Jackson Park, the Midway Plaisance and the city’s park boulevard system. 

The adverse effects were described in the FHWA's assessment of effects report, which was finalized in April

Among the key elements in the Section 106 MOA are:

  • The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Park District (CPD), in consultation with the Illinois State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), will prepare an updated nomination of the Jackson Park Historic Landscape District and the Midway Plaisance to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). This updated nomination was necessitated by the FHWA's determination that the “undertaking may have an adverse effect on (1) the Jackson Park Historic Landscape District and Midway Plaisance and (2) the Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District, which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places …"
  • CDOT and CPD will prepare a Historic Status Report for the English Stone Comfort Station, located on the western edge of Jackson Park next to a playground at approximately 6200 S. between Cornell Dr. and Stony Island Ave., and will rehabilitate the building.
  • CDOT and CPD will prepare a conservation assessment and rehabilitation plan for the Statue of the Republic (commonly known as The Golden Lady – located at the intersection of East Hayes and South Richards Drives) and will implement the plan in phases.
  • CDOT and CPD will plan modifications for the east end of the Midway Plaisance. The design will include new play area features. These modifications result from the responsibilities of the city to provide replacement land for land taken out of recreational use in Jackson Park by the OPC, as required by the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Act of 1978 (UPARR).

The complete Section 106 MOA can be seen and downloaded here.

The Section 106 MOA would become effective once the document has been executed. The parties that are required to sign the MOA for its execution are the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (an independent federal agency), the Federal Highway Administration, and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Officer. Other parties are invited to sign the MOA, but these parties are not required to sign for the document’s execution.

(1) comment

Ross Petersen

This is a very flawed Memorandum of Agreement. It appears to be an attempt to "rubber stamp" the OPC, without considering alternatives. Will we lose listing on the National Register? This is the re-design of an historic Park. In my opinion, this is a criminal act, theft of Park land.

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