Residents launch campaign to save the Midway

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Development for the Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) is on the horizon, and residents in Hyde Park want to ensure that the Midway is preserved and remains clear and open through the formation of a campaign that will, “Save the Midway.”

“When my kids were growing up, I spent thirteen years coaching them [in soccer] and a lot of that time was spent practicing on the Midway,” said Michael McNamee, co-chair of the Save the Midway Campaign. “I’ve always loved the Midway, how open and clear it is and that it connects Jackson Park and Washington Park.”

McNamee and Karen Rechtschaffen, Hyde Park residents, launched the campaign in response the Obama Foundation’s proposal to build a two-story above ground parking garage located between the Metra tracks and Stony Island Avenue under Midway Plaisance.

The foundation referred the area previously as an “underutilized section of the Midway Plaisance across from the future site of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC).”

They are urging the public through the campaign to take action to protect the vision of Frederick Law Olmstead who designed the park, to protect this national treasure on the National Register and to reject the parking garage and bus terminal proposals.

“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 previous article in the Herald.

Save the Midway created petitions to keep the Midway open and clear parkland, free of a parking garage.

The group is also collecting signatures online, in person, and through a virtual postcard opposing the parking garage.

So far signatures from the petition have come from at least 10 zip codes in the city and outside of Chicago.

“The plan would give a part of the Midway to the Obama Foundation, which is a private organization,” McNamee said. “We don’t feel that you can cut off a part and have the rest not be diminished. It would be an intrusion.”

The Midway Plaisance is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and must be treasured because of its historical and cultural significance to the city, McNamee said.

“The protection needs to come from the people,” McNamee said. “We need to do this to get together and protect this beautiful place.”

The group plans to present its petitions to the city and the Obama Foundation as the foundation moves through the process of submitting its plans to the Chicago Planning Commission and city council.

“We want this to work for everyone, and we want to find a place for parking that works for everyone,” McNamee said. “We support the Obama Presidential Center completely, and we want them to have parking that works for them and the hundreds of thousands of visitors that they expect.”

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.

Word of the proposed parking structure became public after the foundation hosted a private invitation-only event, in August, at its Hyde Park headquarters.

The foundation revealed to attendees at the August meeting that it would fund and construct an underground parking garage that would hold approximately 400-450 cars. 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 other amenities.

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

t.hill@hpherald.com