To the Editor:
As eloquently noted by Openland’s CEO Jerry Adelmann at last Thursday’s Section 106 meeting, there are significant problems with the process the City’s Department of Planning and Development and Department of Transportation are following as they conduct the required federal review of the proposals for the Obama Presidential Center and the related road changes it requires. Two problems stand out: First, the City departments have omitted the necessary first step including public participation in developing the statement of “purpose and need” that defines the project for review. Second, they have instead drafted their own “purpose and need” statement without public input. Rather than taking the current configuration of the park as the starting point for assessing the impact of the proposed changes, their statement disingenuously presumes that all of the OPC construction and roadwork has been completed and that only the resulting traffic problems need to be addressed. As with the South Lakefront Framework Plan, there is an ongoing attempt to put the cart before the horse.
Also of note at Thursday’s meeting was the new proposal to take the eastern portion of the Midway — land that the Obama Foundation previously hoped to use for a parking garage — for use as “replacement” land for the baseball diamonds that will be displaced as a result of the OPC siting in the park. Ironically, this proposal could result in a net loss of park space unless the City fully meets its commitment to give the Park District new open green space equal to that taken for the OPC. Further, this proposal disregards the fact that there is an existing Midway Plaisance Framework Plan, developed through a proper community process, that envisions other uses for this space.
We hope that the haste with which the City and Obama Foundation are pursuing their objectives does not result in mistakes that will ultimately slow the entire project down.
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch