Open feedback needed for OPC


To the Editor:

I am thrilled and proud that our first black President of the United States wants to have his Presidential Center in our neighborhood.  Thus far I have not been pleased by the process of getting community feedback.  At every step of the way, open discussions and genuine feedback have been stifled and controlled.  There have been suggestions that any concerns about the plans they present are based in racist attitudes.  I know that’s not the case, because too many people in every race have verbalized views that are not monolithic. I believe the concerns regarding the adverse effects in the Section 106 Review are valid, and I urge the mayor to take them seriously in considering the outcome.

I am 76 years old and have a life-long attachment to Jackson Park, having played there as a child in all seasons and continued to walk there almost weekly for decades until walking became challenging for me.  That’s when I came to appreciate Olmsted’s vision for Cornell Drive, because I could still take that meandering road and be in my park.

I am saddened and puzzled by the Obama’s wish to have this particular land because it doesn’t seem to me that they like what it is.  The changes they are requiring to 3 roads (Cornell Drive, Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island) are enormous.  In addition to costing taxpayers a staggering amount of money, as a commuter during afternoon rush hour, I am certain it will create even worse traffic problems than we have now.  The loss of many old growth trees will also diminish the beauty of the park.  I believe the Obamas, the city and the Obama Foundation would be able to find a space on the South Side of Chicago that is more to their liking.

My last serious problem with the current plan is that the amount of building they are planning and the tall building they intend to include, will completely change the nature of the park.  A park is a park when there is space for people to be in nature and enjoy its beauty.  It’s difficult to imagine that any amount of ‘minimization or mitigation’ will enable the Wooded Island to remain a park given the plans about which the Obama Foundation seems inflexible.

Thank you for being interested in hearing genuine feedback and I hope you will be able to help us have our park and our Obama Center.  This from a constituent who wants to have her cake and eat it, too!


Nina Helstein