To the Editor: 

If we were God, we might have located the Obama Presidential Center elsewhere than in Jackson Park — say, the Washington Park location, in the interest of anchoring redevelopment of the Garfield Boulevard corridor. But we are not God. The siting decision was made amidst much public discussion by various political and personal forces for reasons coherent to them. It was debatable but not illegitimate. It has been effectively ratified by everyone from the City Council to Federal Highway Administration to the Supreme Court. This has taken way too long, but that is the way that democracy seems to work.

The siting decision is over. It is past time to stop lamenting it. It is time to focus on how OPC can be made into the best possible tool for the many purposes being laid upon it. From my perspective, this means using OPC (and related infrastructure) to support the broadest possible restoration and improvement of Jackson Park as a whole. This park should be a jewel — THE jewel? — of the Chicago park system and a living demonstration that all Chicagoans can thrive in a shared environment — that the City can work. We may disagree on optimal facets of the jewel, but I think we can all agree that, at the moment, Jackson Park is some distance from sparkling. The OPC is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reshape and polish it.

Construction of OPC will begin shortly. Let’s organize to look forward, to change what should be changed, to discover possibilities not previously possible, to cherish and to grow the world-class park bequeathed to us by history. Let’s make the most of this opportunity.

 Jay Franke

(7) comments

Andy Carter

Jay thank you for this excellent forward looking letter! And i agree, soon, we will be breaking ground for the OPC. an excellent reason to support this project and make it the best we can rather than making things up about "clear cutting a 1000 trees" Those who say there has been no public hearings or discussion about the placement of the OPC in Jackson Park clearly have chosen to ignore what has been happening in regards to the project for the past few years.

Ross Petersen

Andy, I'd suggest you look at the Bartlett study, which identified over four hundred trees to be removed just to make room for the OPC campus. Then, you have the Chicago Department of Transportation study that identifies another five hundred trees, from along Stony Island, Hayes Drive, Lake Shore Drive; the 'road-widening' plans. Finally, there are trees to be removed from the golf course, another Hundred and Fifty, in the course of removing Marquette Boulevard, and underpass construction. This figure, 1050 trees to be removed, comes from the City of Chicago's own studies, their own figures.

You seem to be unawares the regard we Chicagoans have for our open, clear and free lakefront. Parks, like historically significant architecture, deserve our protection. I'd point out that groups like Protect Our Parks, Jackson Park Watch, Nichols Park Advisory, all have come together to oppose this, it is a boondoggle. No construction has yet begun.

Dadev3

My parents and grand parents paid taxes for this land. I am paying taxes for this. The closing of a six-lane thoroughfare to cut down trees to make one lane on Stony Island and one land on LSD is a poor use of $174M! I live here and walk the park every other day - sometime daily. It is poor judgement as well as a Rham Emanuel gift to the former president. Rham closed schools, now closing roads - only to build another smaller road is ridiculous. Again, I live here I see it. It makes no sense for the 50 Aldermen to vote on something that is NOT happening in their ward. It is not right, fair or even prudent. This is going to be a poor tribute to former President Obama. I campaigned for him and voted for him twice. I am embarrassed for our community. Corporations are going to have a field day with this land while the residents suffer through the confused 1% landgrab.

This is not a small family squabble over something minor. Have your major thoroughfare closed and your thousand mature trees cut and replaced to saplings.

Dadev3

Thank you, Ross!

Ross Petersen

Anything worth doing, is worth doing Right. This Park based plan - isn't. Instead of transforming vacant lots, bringing prosperity to distressed communities, it takes up public park land, and it takes down over a thousand trees. This plan lacks sensitivity to nature, as well as the need for people to have access to this nature. The design of this campus (which could be located on numerous sites) does not require Park land (what's wrong with the site of the Plaisance Hotel, lost to urban renewal?), I went to (some of) those "meetings" and believe me, it was an "unveiling", and no criticism of the site, the location, was addressed. In what, five years, no response on the ecological / environmental impact? This is a boondoggle, it's a back-room deal. We are weary of these boondoggles- like Soldier Field's dog-bowl, or McCormick Place.

Dadev3

I did not ignore the OPC over the past years. Cornell Road works just fine. Working class people use it. During a public meeting at Hyde Park Highschool Michael Strautmanis said, "Nobody uses that but the people from Michigan and Indiana, and we don't care about them." THIS is the attitude of the leadership of the OPC. The OPC has ignored the resident concerns.

The Aldermen, Mayor and Governor are up for reelection. This will be in the forefront!

The OPC project was NOT a "local decision" as noted in court briefings. Fifty Aldermen from across the city signed an ordinance taking away the right of the local residents. This is very serious in that we, local tax-paying residents, have not been represented, and federal judges are scare of being seen as racists if they follow the law.

Those who think we should have all get along do not live here, have not paid taxes here and probably do not frequent the park. However, if you do, then check on your neighbors. We are still reeling from the past year's violence and don't need to close a road to build another few lane which will not handle the additional traffic that the OPC is anticipating.

Ross Petersen

This writer says the decision to locate the OPC inside Jackson Park was made "amidst much public discussion" - only it wasn't. It was simply unveiled, with No opportunity for public comment. This location, inside this Olmsted designed, National Register listed Public Park, is a huge mistake. It ignores the environment, the need for open Park space. No one has yet explained why this has to be in the Park, and Only in the Park. Has this writer not noticed, there is widespread opposition to this plan? We Chicagoans Love our Lakefront, Our Parks. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, and this OPC flies in the opposite direction. They have not broken ground on this, And it is not too late to move it. This is a patronage machine boondoggle, it takes up our Park, provides no make-up land. Enough of your boondoggles. If you think it would pass a referendum, put it to a vote. We taxpayers are done with this corruption.

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