South side residents stage overnight stay ahead of Obama Foundation public meeting at McCormick Place
By TONIA HILL
A group of South Side residents camped out overnight outside of McCormick Place, 2233 S. Martin Luther King Drive, hours ahead of the Barack Obama Foundation’s public meeting on Thursday, Sept. 14.
The group of 15 people who stayed overnight were members of the Obama Library South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition.
The residents represent neighborhoods on the South Side that surround future Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) that will be housed in Jackson Park and plan to be the first in line to speak with representatives from the City of Chicago, the Obama Foundation, and the University of Chicago [U. of C.] in time for the meeting on Thursday evening.
The Coalition is pushing for a CBA for the OPC and want to know why those involved will not commit to signing a CBA.
Organizers are pushing for a CBA to ensure that there is accountability from the developers of the OPC, the Obama Foundation, the city of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and the University of Chicago, who proposed the center’s location on the South Side.
A CBA is a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer that requires the developer to provide specific amenities and development to the local community or neighborhood.
Principles outlined by the Obama Library CBA would require jobs to be set-aside for people in the community, protect affordable housing and homeowners, support and create black-owned businesses, and strengthen neighborhood schools.
“We’re here because we’ve been calling for a CBA,” said Jawanza Malone, executive director of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). “To make sure that the people who live in the community around where the Presidential Center is going do not get displaced pushed out of their homes and that there is long term investment and benefit that comes to the community as a result of the Presidential Center.”
The only way to ensure that displacement and investment in the community occur said Malone is in writing through a CBA.
Jeanette Taylor, a member of KOCO, said she has been pushed out of Bronzeville and has concerns that it may occur again in Woodlawn where she lives currently. She also cited the lack of resources in the neighborhood.
“I used to live in Bronzeville and because there’s no rent cap I was pushed out,” Taylor said. “The store around the corner sells hot chips and juice it’s not a quality grocery store. My kids go to school out of the district because there’s no quality school in my community. If I get shot or hurt there isn’t a trauma center that’s close to my home. [This] community that’s been disinvested in for years and now that we’re going to get the Presidential Center we’re going to be pushed out.”
Taylor added that former President Barack Obama “he owes it to us to say let’s get it in writing.”
Malone suggested that U. of C. is leveraging the legacy of Obama for its own economic gain.
Malone cited the announcements for new development made by the University in recent months including a 180-room hotel that will be situated on the corner of 60th Street and Dorchester Avenue.
“Who benefits from that, other than the University of Chicago,” Malone said.
Malone noted that taxpayers will be on the hook to pay for infrastructure and new roadway improvements for the OPC.
At the public meeting on Thursday, Obama Foundation will gather feedback from the public on the development and construction for the OPC.
Over the last few months, the Coalition has hosted forums that align with principles outlined in the CBA.
The coalition’s most recent forum focused on education in the wake of development for the OPC.
Residents walked away from each of the forums with next steps that include getting more people in the neighborhood involved and voting in the upcoming election. As well as, staying abreast of policy by attending city council meetings and reaching out to their council members.
Since concept design plans were released in May, the Obama Foundation has participated in large-scale community meetings alongside the City of Chicago, Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) in June, July, and August.
Groundbreaking for the OPC is set to begin late next summer, and it is expected to open to the public in 2021.
The coalition is made up of members from the University of Chicago student-led Prayer and Action Collective, KOCO, Southside Together Organizing for Power, and the Bronzeville Regional Collective.
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at Hyde Park High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave.
Following the meeting next month the coalition will present the CBA in writing to the entities involved with the development of the OPC.