The writer has chosen this format to explore the problems connected with the construction of the OPC and not to imply that the Obamas have had this discussion.

Barack: While we're in town, let's just take a trip down to Jackson Park and look over the site of the OPC.

Michelle: Great — it's a gorgeous day, and I'd love to see the place where it's happening! You know, there are still objections to our selecting the site - I don't think they have any merit, but...

Barack: Oh, they're just a bunch of naysayers — a few birdwatchers and the usual complainers.

Now, at the site

Barack: So this is where it will be — a beautiful tower 235 feet tall! And a new landscape surrounding it!

Michelle: And they're going to tear down Cornell Drive, right?

Barack: Yeah, ugly, shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Michelle: I read that a drive was in the original plan for the park.

Barack: But not a highway — we don't need that!

Michelle: Well, 150 years later it's evolved into a major artery for traffic coming off the Skyway. And rush hour going south on the Drive is already a mess.

Barack: They'll work around that — Stony Island will become more of a highway, and they'll widen the Drive by taking away just a bit of the Park.

Michelle: I hope the winter storms don't get worse — they've impacted travel on the Drive already. And there are schools and residences on Stony Island — how can that become a major artery?

Barack: Not to worry, that'll be worked out.

Michelle: They're not going to take down that many trees for us, are they? I heard something like a thousand.

Barack: Oh, maybe it's more like seven or eight hundred. And they'll replace them.

Michelle: You can't replace hundred-year-old trees with saplings.

Barack: You have to think big — sure, it's disturbing, but you don't have progress without some destruction.

Michelle: So we lose the trees, Cornell Drive gets chopped up and carted away, land is taken to expand the Drive, Stony Island becomes a highway. Speaking of cars, what's happening with the parking lot idea?

Barack: It'll be underground — they're going to build one of those amazing “bathtubs,” like the one built in the late '90s for Science and Industry.

Michelle: I remember that cost something like $57 million over 20 years ago. And it will be close to the Lagoon — possible water problems?

Barack: They'll take care of it. And the city has offered to pay for a lot of this: widening of the Drive, building the underground parking garage...

Michelle: Barack, the city is broke! Already the taxes are too high for a lot of people.

Barack: But the city has not spent enough on the South Side.

Michelle: It seems to me that there are better, less destructive ways to spend on the South Side. There's this claim that it will bring business to Woodlawn, but I've also seen comments from people who are worried that they'll be priced out of their own neighborhood.

Barack: Well, the city will work it out.

Michelle: Yeah, fat chance. Why don't we just rethink this whole thing? We loved Jackson Park for a site, and now our plans will destroy its history for the sake of celebrating your presidency.

It's going off the rails — way too much destruction of a beautiful park, all to celebrate us?

Five years of trucks hauling away trees, dirt, cement — five years of severe disruption of traffic — financial woes of the city causing delays and maybe even shoddy workmanship, a building that doesn't even allow for the usual high security, service vehicles, and roadwork that doesn't allow for extra traffic, school buses, tourist buses — this is NOT a good idea. Really, Barack — there are lots of vacant lots in Woodlawn, if we want to build there, or we could go west of Washington Park and have our building right at the Green Line and Garfield — what a boon to the neighborhood! And they could really use it! And imagine a winter garden right where you get off at the train station — a winter garden as part of the building! And you already have a commercial strip right there, with the Arts Incubator, the Currency Cafe and the Green Line Performing Arts Center...

Barack: But Michelle, the Center in Jackson Park is a done deal.

Michelle: Sorry, I think we should reconsider...

(4) comments


Amazed at the lack of news coverage about this. It will make it to the history books..


Wonderful. Must see


Not the best use of the land for the local residents. But, the poiwer has come and landed in Jackson Park. We will submit and obey.


Absolutely wonderful! You've renewed my belief in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.