Before the city begins to cut down a thousand trees in Jackson Park and plow under Cornell Drive in order to begin construction of the Obama Presidential Center, the promoters should take a step back and look at the situation more critically. I propose that the Center be divided in two: the Obama Public Library and Arts Center, and the Obama Presidential Center.
The first would be located in Woodlawn on one of the properties owned by the city or the University rather than in Jackson Park. It should be near Hyde Park Academy High School and would house the Obama Public Library, video and audio recording studios, and a community dance studio. There would be no need to cut down masses of trees, no costs to reconfigure Stony Island or expand Lake Shore Drive, and no need to build an underground parking garage a few hundred yards from the Jackson Park Lagoon. The much-needed public library would finally be built, students from the area would flock to the Center to make music and dance videos, and the Center would provide a connection to the very successful Stony Island Arts Bank, a few blocks away.
The other Obama Presidential Center could then serve a different neighborhood, one in need of economic development: west of Washington Park, on the vacant land owned by the city and the University of Chicago. Here we find proximity to public transportation, connection to the Dan Ryan, the Green Line Performing Arts Center, a historic park, the DuSable Museum, and the Lorado Taft Sculpture of Time. The building would house the collection that the Obamas are eager to display: their histories and the years of the Obama presidency, and it would have more room for documents, books, photo collections, and videos. Equally important, it could be the beacon for new leadership hosted by the Obama Foundation, according to ideas described in your recent letters . There would be investment in both communities, and President Obama could claim two centers instead of one!