Obama Center will influence MC, community


The Obama Presidential Center is not only an important project because of what is being built but also the process of the center being built and the people working on it. But now that construction of the Obama Presidential Center is officially underway, the effect that it will have on the community surrounding of Jackson Park will be immense. Mt. Carmel High School will also likely be influenced by that such a significant place becoming a neighbor in the community. 

The Obama Presidential Center will feature a world-class museum that chronicles the leadership of former President Barack and Michelle Obama and, per the Center’s website, “it will be a place to reflect and grow, connect and create; to tap into your own sense of purpose and discover the change you want to make in the world.” The center will also include a Chicago Public Library branch, a multipurpose space on top of the museum, and program, activity, and athletic centers for community events.

But the most important effects the center has on its surrounding neighborhoods may not be directly related to what is being built in the Obama Center. 

According to Mt. Carmel school president Brendan Conroy, the Center will greatly benefit Mt. Carmel and the places around it because “it will attract people to this side of the city” and when a neighborhood attracts more people to the city it “gives more small businesses opportunities to thrive.”

But the construction and placement of the Obama Center does not come without some controversy. Groups such as SaveJacksonPark have started fundraising and protest campaigns to try and preserve the trees and vegetation that are being removed due to the construction of the Center. 

When the Center was in the early stages of getting planned there was a set list of locations that it could be, and some people believe that Jackson park was not the best place out of the options that were presented. 

According to SaveJacksonPark’s website, the location of the Obama Center will be detrimental to the environment and would be better placed in a location like Washington Park.

Some people have gone as far as lawsuits to try and prevent the construction of the center in Jackson park. University of Chicago professor, author, and landscape historian Dr. W.J.T. Mitchell believes that making the Obama Center a private space in Jackson Park is very contradictory to the original plan of what the Obama center was supposed to be.

“I want to save the Obamas from their own bad decision,” Mitchell told the Chicago Reader regarding his motivation for joining the lawsuit against locating the Center in Jackson Park.

Although there are many positives which are complemented with a lot of negatives to the Obama Center being built in Jackson Park, it ultimately will be an important place where students at Mt. Carmel can go to visit on school trips, it can be a great landmark for the Mt. Carmel community to go and learn more about politics, and it can overall bring much more attention and people to Jackson Park.