A north-facing rendering of the Obama Presidential Center campus in Jackson Park.

The Federal Highway Authority (FHWA) has asked the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to review the authority's finding that the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and associated changes to Jackson Park will have no adverse effect on the Jackson Park Terrace Historic District.

The FHWA is reviewing the OPC plans with the National Park Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In January, the authority found that adverse effects would befall the Jackson Park Historic Landscape District, the Midway Plaisance and the Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District, but not  the Terrace Historic District.

The federal agency received public comment on the effects findings from a number of designated consulting parties, most of which took issue with the establishment of the OPC in Jackson Park or its design. Most detractors, however, did not provide the FHWA with specific reasons about their disagreements, so the agency discounted them.

But the Cultural Landscape Foundation argued that the undertaking will have an adverse effect on the Jackson Park Terrace Historic District, 6018-6050 S. Stony Island Ave. Opened in 1974 and designed by the African American Whitley/Whitley Architects and Planners firm, the complex, comprised of 24 low-rise apartment buildings and a 19-story building, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) for its location, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.

The assessment of effects (AOE) found that, while the OPC Museum Building will be visible from the apartments, "the property’s setting with the visual and physical relationship between the property and Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance will be maintained," thus not endangering its listing on the NRHP.

But the Landscape Foundation observed that the government previously recognized that Jackson Park Terrace's setting was somewhat diminished because of changes around the property in 1980, when an eight-story hotel to its north was replaced by a parking lot.

“Contrary to the findings in the AOE, it seems abundantly clear that the proposed OPC campus would completely alter the visual relationship between the historic district and Jackson Park, given that, since the time of its construction, the Jackson Park Terrace complex has enjoyed uninterrupted views into the relatively flat, sylvan setting directly to its east, across South Stony Island Avenue,” the Cultural Landscape Foundation commented.

The ACHP, an independent federal agency, will review the Highway Authority's  Jackson Park Terrace finding. Adverse effect findings must be mitigated by some means before the federal reviews of the OPC plans conclude and construction can begin.

(2) comments

Ross Petersen

Yes, there will be adverse effects. I'm not certain why a building of this height was considered in the first place, in this location. Certainly, there are a number of sites where the OPC could be a prominent addition to the neighborhood. I don't think this is the best way to honor the president, and the changes to the park, its roads, the golf course, this is going to permanently change Jackson Park, and not improve it.

I'm glad to hear the city has called on this Advisory Council for their advice. It appears the city does not have this capability in-house. We can only hope that these reviews, the Assessment of Effects, get the consideration, the deliberation they deserve. This is a historic park, and it should be preserved.

John Weis Loftus

I wonder if Mr. Obama owns this agency too ?

Just wondering.....

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