To the Editor:

Is it too late to change the course of the Obama Center? Is it a done deal? Probably. But we should not stop trying.

W.J.T. Mitchell in his letter in last week’s Herald got it exactly right. Now that construction seems imminent, we’re in for several years of community disruption and then, once the OPC is built, the disruption will be permanent. I admire the Obamas as much as anyone, but this time they got it wrong. I have seen no persuasive arguments that replacing beloved parkland with a tourist draw that will significantly change the nature of our community is worth it.

Parks are often seen by powers that be as free land to be developed for more intensive uses. They’re not. They provide serene spaces to commune with nature, perhaps to play outdoor games, to breathe decent air, to be alone. A huge unattractive building with all its appurtenant facilities and its crowds in every way conflicts with these goals. 

The project in that location was sold with the dubious arguments of community development. A few hundred jobs might be available during construction but then will drop considerably once doors open. How many of the skilled jobs will be open to members of the community? Will restaurants open nearby? Will there be new hotels, particularly now that new hotels have recently opened a few blocks away? These arguments are almost always overblown, rarely come to pass.

The availability of transit-accessible vacant land just west of Washington Park puts the lie to every claim that the Jackson Park site is the best.

With so much energy and money already invested, I don’t know if it’s too late to make the switch. But we need to try. The downsides to our neighborhood are too great. The upsides to the shift are too compelling.

 Michael Meshenberg

(3) comments


Kudos to the legal team of Protect Our Parks

Thank you Mr. Caplan, Mr. Epstein and Mr. Rachlis for your resolute efforts to protect and preserve Jackson Park, a public park of historical significance. The legal facts and information your team has submitted clearly supports the public’s position to question and prevent any private entity to take public land. Normally, but apparently not in this particular case, any unbiased local judiciary would follow the rule of law.

Regretfully, it appears Obama’s positive campaign mantra of 2008 “Yes We Can!”, is now being convoluted in 2021 by the OPC Foundation to chant, “Because We Have the Political Power, Yes We Will”

If the Obamas and The OPC Foundation choose to ignore reasonable opposition and proceed to move forward with the Jackson Park site, they should also consider potential negative consequences for this low road perspective. Of particular importance, will future generations who understand and value the importance of inter-city open park space, adjudge this environmentally insensitive 24 story building to be a symbol of political power, commercial interests and a disregard for the rule of law? Will this controversial image ultimately define the Obama legacy?

In the final analysis, only our former President, Barrack Obama and his wife Michelle have the actual power to persuade the OPC Foundation to abandon the quest for Jackson Park and seek an alternative site in the area.

Ray Pickens


doug shaeffer

i've been watching the construction with a terrible feeling. i live at the end of the midway and have been walking the midway and the island for many years. i feel this transfer of public land to be a betrayal on many levels, of the nature sanctuary, of the trees that will be destroyed, and of the people who are being and will continue to be displaced. the community will be radically negatively affected in fundamental ways and will lose something that cannot be replaced. it's a negative legacy, and it will continue to be not for just 99 years. have an open forum. it will show that people do not want another millenium park. people want the park olmsted created.

(Edited by staff.)

Ross Petersen

It is Not too late to relocate. That's just the point of all the resistance to this idea, the lawsuits, the groups coming together to say No, move the Obama Center to any number of alternative locations. Any day now, some federal judge is going to point out - this thing violates the Environmental Protection Act, or, it violates selling off a public Park, and they'll be forced to relocate it. Democracy is much like a muscle, you have to exercise it if you expect to stay fit. Join Protect Our Parks, or Jackson Park Watch, or Preservation Chicago. Join with environmentalists, nature lovers, Park advocates who object to this plan, it is a boondoggle. Obama deserves better, and Chicago is famous for its architecture. We can do Much better by Preserving Jackson Park, and creating a World - Class Obama Center on any number of sites.

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.