To the Editor:

A few thoughts on the proposed Memorandum of Agreement for the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park/

1. The proposed Memorandum of Agreement makes no provision for the avoidance or minimization of any of the adverse effects of the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and the projects that the City of Chicago has chosen to link to the construction of the OPC, including (a) the closure of portions of the South Midway Plaisance, (b) the shutdown of Cornell Drive and related changes to Lake Shore Drive, and (c) the designation of the eastern end of the Midway as an Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act (UPARR) replacement site. This contravenes Section 106 and related provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations, at 36 C.F.R. §§800.1, et seq.

2. The mitigation provisions of the proposed Memorandum of Agreement are a sham, consisting of a memorialization of the destruction caused by the adverse effects of these projects.

3. The proposed shutdown of Cornell Drive and related changes to Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue, at a cost of $175 million (based on current estimates which likely will be exceeded), will destroy the Olmsted traffic circulation design for Jackson Park.

The Olmsted traffic circulation design is used by thousands every day. The proposed changes will cause unnecessary inconvenience and congestion. The safety improvements touted to justify these changes can be obtained without destroying the Olmsted design, at a fraction of the proposed cost.

Earlier this year, Mayor Lightfoot and Senator Durbin called on FEMA to declare a lakefront emergency for Chicago and Cook County. In light of the threat posed by rising lake levels, the decision to divert traffic from Cornell Drive to Lake Shore Drive makes no sense.

Also, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago are burdened with debt and rising taxes, and this situation has been exacerbated by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining the Olmsted traffic circulation design would help maintain the aesthetic integrity of Jackson Park, while minimizing inconvenience to the public and reducing proposed public expenditures.

4. The City’s proposed use of the Midway as a UPARR replacement site would not add parkland, when the opportunities to add parkland to underserved areas in the vicinity abound. In light of the myriad vacant lots owned by the City in, for instance, Woodlawn, it is amazing that only two other UPARR replacement sites supposedly were considered within 1 mile from Jackson Park.

5. The City claims that it resolved the adverse effects identified in the Assessment of Effects. However, this claim is baseless, because the City’s purported resolution of adverse effects took place before the Assessment of Effects was developed.

6. The City’s claim also violates 36 C.F.R. §800.1(c), which authorizes “nondestructive project planning activities before completing compliance with section 106, provided that such actions do not restrict the subsequent consideration of alternatives to avoid, minimize or mitigate the undertaking’s adverse effects on historic properties.” (Emphasis supplied.)

7. No federal funds or approvals should be provided for these projects, based on the City’s failure to make any effort to avoid or minimize adverse effects.

8. The proposed Memorandum of Agreement should be withdrawn by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the FHWA should seek ways to “avoid, minimize or mitigate” the adverse effects that have been identified.

9. The proposed Memorandum of Agreement should not be signed by the any of the consulting parties, including but not limited to the Illinois State Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Marc Lipinski

(6) comments

Jaye Platt

COVID and the tanking of the Chicago/Illinois economy has changed the OPC options. Our city/state simply doesn't have tax revenue available to build hundreds of $ millions on personality cult 23 story high rise "presidential centers"/temples in our lake front public parks. The best alternative is to simply renamed (Andrew not Jessie) Jackson public park to "Obama Park". By todays political standards Andrew Jackson is way more politically incorrect than say Christopher Columbus, George Washington or Theodore Roosevelt - yeah, Andy Jackson owed slaves and fought Indian wars and also opposed the East Coast banking elite - might as well name a Chicago public park after Hitler :-) So, the best solution is to simply rename "Jackson Park" to "Obama Park" and then let the Obamas/Rahm Emanuel/Mellody Hobson, Valerie Jarret, Oprah do some serious, serious private fundraising from the tech monopolists who became the wealthiest men in the world under Obama's Presidency. The owners of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft can contribute $ hundreds of millions, maybe even $ billions to make "Obama Park" (formerly Andrew Jackson Park) THE best Presidential Park in the Chicago public park system - better than U. S Grant Park, better than Abraham Lincoln Park, certainly better than George Washington Park. This Obama Park would be a 100% public park - with nature in the city as envisioned by the Olmsted plan - beautiful trees, bushes and flowers, clean lagoons and well maintained athletic fields, tennis courts, and clean and safe public bathrooms that regular South Side residents will enjoy - what a better way to honor ex President Obama than to have The best ever Chicago presidential park named after President Obama? Who knows, with President Obama Park here in our Hyde Park, Kenwood, South Shore, Woodlawn neigborhood, the Obamas might decide to visit our community or even move back to their empty mansion in Kenwood? As it stands the Obamas have dined and dashed and have closed on a $13 million estate on Martha's Vineyard MA where there are ~ 0% poor Black African Americans and ~ 0% poor people of any kind. M'thinks the Obamas just don't like to be around poor people these days unless it's to worship them in some god awful 23 story Presidential Center/Temple.

morganlamar

Quit crying; the OPC will be 2.5 acres of the 500 acre, mostly unkempt Jackson Park.

Ross Petersen

2.5 Acres? Nope, it's Twenty acres. And the road revisions will eat up even more Park.

800 to 1,000 trees cut down. A 23 story tall mid-rise. This OPC doesn't belong inside the Park.

morganlamar

oh I didnt realize it was 20 acres. Still pales in comparison to what will actually be left. I walked through the area and its a mess. Perhaps bring the OPC will encourage citizens to keep the park in better shape.

Ross Petersen

We already pay for Park maintenance, it's included in the Real estate taxes / high rents we are paying. The fact is the Chicago Park District diverts these funds to other Parks, indoor ice skating rinks and the like, up North. We pay for maintenance, but don't get any. We have deferred maintenance on this Park for years. Have a look at the Friend's of the Parks report that noted this bias. This is nothing new.

Ross Petersen

I agree, this MoA is a sham. I wonder how much money was wasted on this? The impact of the OPC goes far beyond just the OPC campus, and will change the character of the entire Park. The project has expanded, significantly, since first unveiled. Why wasn't avoidance, or minimization considered?

Like the dog-bowl they built on top of Soldier Field, or McCormick Place, another illegal encroachment on our Lakefront. Who benefits from these structures? Certainly Not the citizens of Chicago. This is a patronage boondoggle, cloaked as some kind of honor to the President, only it isn't. It's a 23 story tall mid-rise, ugly and windowless.

Chicagoans have been protecting their lakefront Parks forever. Montgomery Ward wasn't the first. He won't be the last.

What kind of honor are we bestowing on our former President? I see no honor in chopping down 800 to 1,000 trees, and constructing these buildings, inside this historic Park.

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