Ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park, the former president reiterated the project’s potential to transform the South Side, with the same idealistic fire that catalyzed his own career in public service years ago.© Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune Construction continues on the Barack Obama Presidential Center site in Chicago's Jackson Park on Sept. 23, 2021.
His pitch comes despite an enduring legal battle against his use of parkland and as local activists planned a protest outside the future site of the presidential center to call for more affordable housing protections.
“We are ready to get going,” Barack Obama said in an interview released Tuesday morning by ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “And I am absolutely confident that when this thing is done … the young person who’s grown up across the street, or down the block, or a few miles away, now suddenly (has) a place where concerts and speeches and debates and forums are taking place.”
Obama’s message of hope arrives at a South Side still aching from the coalescing crises of the coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent economic recession and a rise in violent crime, as well as recent civil unrest over police shootings. But in his interview, the nation’s first Black president said his center will not leave behind the community that launched his political journey.
“Something I wanted to get done that I couldn’t get done was get smarter, common-sense gun safety measures in place through Congress,” Obama said when asked about Chicago’s troubling homicides. “But what we can do is potentially give young people the sense that there’s another way for them to empower themselves. … Those young people matter.”
The ceremony will be livestreamed at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday at obama.org.
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Barack and Michelle Obama’s return to Chicago caps off a five-year journey to a groundbreaking that was expected to happen far earlier, with the center originally slated to open this year. Instead, shovels only hit the ground last month after a legal bid to halt construction failed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Opening day is now scheduled for 2025, but the park preservationists determined to get the Obama Foundation to relocate the campus remain confident in their latest pending lawsuit.
At the same time, the Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, a group of activists demanding more protections for residents they fear will be displaced by the project, said they haven’t given up their fight either. The coalition announced a protest was planned next to the Jackson Park site at noon Tuesday, in support of affordable housing measures for South Shore similar to the City Hall’s ordinance for Woodlawn renters and homeowners passed last year.
Nonetheless, the 44th president said his excitement prevails in the face of the local pushback. He argued that the majority of the neighbors want the center in the historic park sandwiched between Woodlawn and Lake Michigan.
“The truth is, anytime you do a big project, there’s always going to be some people who say, ‘Well, look, we don’t want change. We’re worried about it; we don’t know how it’s going to turn out,’” Obama said. “Which is why we’ve gone through such an exhaustive process to encourage and elicit comments and concerns.”
The 19.3-acre, $700 million Obama Presidential Center will contain a 235-foot-tall tower housing the museum with artifacts from the former president’s upbringing, presidential campaigns and eight-year tenure in the White House. A public forum and plaza, athletic and recreation center, new branch of the Chicago Public Library, play area and sledding hill will also be built.
Obama departed from traditional presidential libraries by opting out of the National Archives and Records Administration’s network and its funds. Instead, the official records from his time in the Oval Office will be digitized.
An economic study commissioned by the Obama Foundation projected a $3.1 billion impact and roughly 700,000 annual visitors. Up to 5,000 “direct and indirect” jobs will also be created throughout the center’s construction, with a focus on workers hailing from the South and West sides, according to the foundation.
“This project has reminded us why the South Side and the people who live here are so special,” Michelle Obama said in a video Friday. “And it’s reaffirmed what Barack and I always believed: that the future here is as bright as it is, anywhere.”
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/obama-center-groundbreaking-former-president-hopes-new-library-and-museum-campus-will-empower-young-people-on-chicago-e2-80-99s-south-side/ar-AAOVbfz991