At the beginning, hearing that former President Barack Obamas Presidential library would be on the South side of Chicago in Woodlawn, many hoped it would create jobs and benefit the community. But this simply was no the case for the situation when renters in the area saw their Home Values rocket.
The OPC is anticipated to bring a major jolt of investment to that part of the city: According to the Obama Foundation, the center will have a $339 million economic impact during construction, and $177 million annually from the three-building campus once it opens. An economic assessment by the Obama Foundation predicted the center would generate close to 5,000 jobs during construction and about 2,500 jobs after it opens, projecting a total economic impact of $3.1 billion through its first decade.
However, that doesn’t solve the issue of renters not being able to afford their rent. Woodlawn is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, according to estimates by real estate brokerage Redfin.
Redfin reported in 2017 that between February and July, Woodlawn had the third-highest increase in estimated home values compared to that of its metro area in the country.
Redfin estimates home values went up by 23 percent in the first six months of the year, a rate far faster than the 4.6 percent increase in value for the Chicago area as a whole.
Speculation about the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in nearby Jackson Park at the northeast corner of the neighborhood might be driving some of the change.
But Woodlawn had one of the lowest median home prices on the list at $133,800, and one of the lowest percentages of homes selling over list price, at 22 percent.
That may all show that the market in Woodlawn is heating up, but not overheating like North Shoreview in San Franciso, No. 7 on the list, where the median home price is now more than $1 million, and 95 percent of homes sell for more than the asking price.
U.S. Census numbers from last year showed the neighborhood is growing in population again for the first time in decades, driven by an influx of young black families.
Barack Obama stated that the purpose for his library is to inspire visitors and locals “to make a positive change in their communities,” yet the project has already begun to alienate the very community it’s meant to change.
When it’s finished, the center will include a community garden, a “test kitchen,” and a recording studio where visitors will be able to “create their own songs, speeches, short films, and interviews,” according to the Foundation’s website.
But residents from the neighborhood have said multiple times that they do not want any of that. They want their public park, their low-cost housing, and their culture. They want their elected officials to listen when they want to be heard, residents continue to ignored while their communities are destroyed.
It seems that Obama is once again taking executive power for granted: His library will neither contain his presidential documents, which have all been digitized, nor be administered by the National Archives and Records Administration , the two elements that are required for a official presidential library.
In fact, the Obama Foundation has even named it the Obama Presidential “Center,” and the only books it may possibly contain would come from the Chicago Public Library.
In other words, it’s not even a presidential library. It is, in Barack Obama’s words, a “gift to the community” that will spread his message. The Foundation explains this on its website by pointing out that the center itself will be a living testament to the values of Obama’s presidency.
However residents aren’t the only ones let down by the decision of the location. Park preservationists have expressed disappointment about the choice because it means the library will have a bigger footprint in Jackson Park. Like Washington Park and the Midway Plaisance, the strip of green that connects the two finalist sites, Jackson Park was designed by the great 19th-century landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
In a statement Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, said; “We still don’t think it should be in a park”.
But the group says that it does not plan to challenge the center in court, as it did against the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which caused George Lucas to pull the project from Chicago.
Near the eastern edge of the University of Chicago campus, the 543-acre Jackson Park is a South Side oasis, with a wooded island in a picturesque lagoon, lush woods and a golf course.
Jackson Park’s western edge along Stony Island Avenue connects with Woodlawn, an impoverished African-American neighborhood that is beginning to gentrify. And the Hyde Park neighborhood, just north of Woodlawn and surrounding the university, already is booming.
Many citizens living in the community are worried of the community being gentrified, something former President Barack Obama doesn’t seem to worried about.