Obama Foundation publicly announces park and parking facility proposal for OPC

A rendering of a combined park and parking structure for the Barack Obama Presidential Center, proposed by The Barack Obama Foundation. – Rendering courtesy of The Barack Obama Foundation

Tonia Hill
Staff Writer

The Barack Obama Foundation, today publically announced a proposal for a combined park and parking structure for the Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) that will be housed in Jackson Park.

The foundation stated in a news release that it would be located on an “underutilized section of the Midway Plaisance across from the future site of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC).”

Word of the proposed parking structure came out after the foundation hosted a private invitation-only event, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at its Hyde Park headquarters.

The foundation revealed to attendees at the meeting that it would fund and construct an underground parking garage between the Metra tracks and Stony Island Avenue under the Midway Plaisance.

The facility will be covered and surrounded by a 3-4 acre park open to the public for use and include a picnic area, a children’s play area and more.

“The existing Cheney-Goode Memorial will be retained as part of the proposed redevelopment of this parkland. The proposal includes off-street bus drop-off and pick-up, bicycle parking, and a close connection to Metra,” said the foundation in a written release.

The City of Chicago owns Midway Plaisance. The foundation stated pending approval by the City Council, “the city would convey rights for parking to the Obama Foundation.”

When former President Barack Obama, in May, presented concept plans for the OPC, he mentioned creating an underground parking garage in the same location. At the time, it was not clear who would pay to construct the garage.

The underground parking garage would hold approximately 400-450 cars and will be paid for by the foundation.

Officials at the meeting, last week, also said that they are cutting out another item from the original concept plan released in May. Initially, the design concept included pedestrian bridges that would connect the parking garage to the OPC the idea is no longer a part of their plan.

Other items mentioned at the meeting include traffic congestion and noise, the integration of the OPC campus into the park, activity areas on the campus, according to Margaret Schmid, co-coordinator with Jackson Park Watch.

“There was a great deal of concern amongst people in attendance about their [Obama Foundation’s] proposal to eliminate the perennial garden, and it’s unclear what they think they’re going to do,” Schmid said.

The Perennial Garden is a circular garden that is situated where Midway Plaisance meets Jackson Park.

“The site keeps expanding, none of that land has been given to them [Obama Foundation] by the city, and something needs to happen in order for that to be worked out,” Schmid said.

t.hill@hpherald.com