OPC site is not ‘underutilized’


To the Editor:

In comments at their latest summit, Michelle Obama described the section of Jackson Park slated to become the site of the Obama Presidential Center as “underutilized.” I think this is an unfair assessment, as that part of the park is, in fact, frequently used by local residents, who take advantage of the open space, using it for picnics, family reunions, birthday parties, and the like.

I frequently go out just before dawn, make my way to the Wooded Island, and watch the birds. That area is amazing for birdwatchers. Cornell Drive is easily crossed at the Midway, as there are crosswalks and traffic signals at the intersection.

The site for the OPC will also remove the Women’s garden and eliminate Eastbound Midway Plaisance. Cornell Drive will be removed, with traffic to be diverted to Stony Island or by Hayes Drive to a widened Lake shore Drive.

Cost of these projects are estimated at $175 – $200 million. The full impact of traffic changes will be significant.

There are alternatives: 5600 block of South Stony Island; the site of the former Plaisance Hotel, on 60th and Stony. There is no reason to give up park land, when these sites lie vacant.

There also are numerous sites adjacent to Washington Park. This area could use the economic stimulus the OPC would bring, and this would boost the prominence of the DuSable museum, also creating a museum campus South.

Chicagoans have a long history of doing battle to save our parks. Consider the work of A. Montgomery Ward, or the work of the Burnham brigade in the 1960s. The question is, what have we learned from that?

We need to protect our historic landscape designs, not build on them.

Ross Petersen