Obama Center Moves Into Federal Review

The review process will last for an indefinite amount of time.

By Kamryn Slomka

Federal review of plans for the Obama Presidential Center, to be built in Jackson Park, began yesterday. The Obama Foundation will not submit plans to the city for approval until next year.

Before any work starts in the park, the reviews must be completed. The federal reviews will continue for an unspecified length of time.

Plans for the Center must be reviewed by relevant federal agencies under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act because the Center will take up nearly 20 acres of the park and greatly alter the way the land is used publicly. The first act requires the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to decide whether proposed projects will have an adverse effect on historic properties, while the second mandates an environmental review.

The reviews are necessary since Jackson Park has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.

Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of the nonprofit Cultural Landscape Foundation, spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday and said that “Altogether the confiscation of 20-plus acres for the Obama Presidential Center, golf course consolidation and expansion, new roads, impacts on the lakefront, loss of historic trees, and a parking garage at the Midway, result in a massive adverse effect on the National Register of Historic Places designated park.”

For the reviews, the proposal for the Center was linked with a controversial plan to combine the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses. This connection is worrying to some who believe the controversy of the golf course merger will negatively impact the way that the Center is viewed.

Earlier this week, the Obama Foundation’s goal was to submit plans for the Center to the Chicago Planning Commission by the end of 2017. However, the Foundation has now delayed submitting the plans until next year, according to a tweet by long-time Hyde Park reporter, Sam Cholke.

During the interim, several historic, environmental, and archaeological evaluations of the proposed site will occur