To the Editor:
Below is a letter sent from the Jackson Park Highlands Association to the Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development’s Public Participation Office on Aug. 27.
Dear Ms. Abby Monroe:
My name is Russell Pike, and I am the president of the Jackson Park Highlands Association. This organization represents 276 homes located within the Jackson Park Highlands, which is a historic landmark community bearing the name of the park that is immediately north of us. Our community is located within South Shore.
Approximately 73% of the residents within our community support the site that the Obama Foundation has selected to build the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). We are extremely excited about this and are anxiously waiting for its construction to begin.
It is our belief that that the OPC will provide the South Shore community and the city of Chicago with a significant stimulation for economic development, an increase of revenue and a positive catalyst within South Shore, which is long overdue. The OPC will also provide a beacon of hope for our youth and establish a place where the residents of South Shore can truly enjoy the historical Jackson Park. This project will provide a level of pride for all of our citizens and will represent a development that will establish an ongoing legacy for President Barack Obama.
It is amazing the level of attention that Jackson Park has received since the Obama Foundation selected it has the site to develop OPC. I have resided in the Jackson Park Highlands community for 36 years and have observed the constant deterioration of Jackson Park. The area that has been selected for the construction of the OPC, with the exception of the football field and track, is seldom utilized by the residents and others. The sidewalks adjacent to this area are in disrepair, the park benches are broken, the field house requires significant rehabilitation and the general upkeep of the park leaves much to be desired.
One of the concerns raised by many individuals is the closing of a section of Cornell Avenue. However, this roadway creates an adverse effect to the park and prevents visitors of the park from truly enjoying it. The potential danger and lack of safety caused by the traffic and drivers consistently exceeding the speed limit prevents individual park goers, bicyclists and pedestrians from comfortably utilizing this space. An old adage among park lovers is to leave things better than you found them. The improvements to the park and the community that will come from the successful development of the OPC do just that. We believe that the proposed plans for the OPC will result in a safer, more usable, and better maintained Jackson Park.
It is the opinion of many residents in the Jackson Park Highlands that the development of the Obama Presidential Center will create an overall positive impact for our community, South Shore and the city of Chicago. This development will especially provide the South Shore residents, as well as the residents of Chicago, with pride and unlimited opportunities. We look forward to the day when we can visit the OPC campus and truly enjoy everything it will have to offer!
Finally, in regard to the Assessment of Effects (AOE) from the Section 106 process, those who support the center strongly believe that the benefits the OPC brings to our communities clearly outweigh the “adverse” effect that has been noted to Olmsted’s design for Jackson Park. It is our belief that parks are living entities that evolve with their communities and should be able to be modified to best serve those who use them.
Russell Pike, President
Jackson Park Highlands Association