(CHICAGO) The Obama Foundation said Wednesday the Chicago Park District’s approval to transfer land in Washington Park and Jackson Park for the Obama Presidential Library improves the city’s chances for getting the coveted attraction.
The park district voted unanimously Wednesday evening to approve the transfer after about an hour of public comment, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The Obama Foundation applauded the decision: “The Foundation welcomes the action of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, which improves Chicago’s bids for the Obama Presidential Center,” a statement said. “We appreciate the City of Chicago’s efforts to develop a competitive and robust proposal and the engagement of the community and City Council in an open dialogue about the potential of a future Center.”
A decision on where the museum will be built will be announced in March. Columbia University in New York and the University of Hawaii are the other two finalists.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also showed his support for the decision.
“I am committed to moving heaven and earth to ensure that the Obama Presidential Library makes its home on Chicago’s South or West side, not on Manhattan’s Upper West Side,” Emanuel said in a statement. “As the city where President Obama started his career in public service and raised his family, Chicago is united in its effort to welcome the president’s legacy and the foundation of his future civic initiatives. Today’s action by the Park District is another step toward ensuring we’ve met the president’s request to secure the three finalist sites.”
The unanimous vote by five park district commissioners didn’t come easy. And at least one park conservancy group says it plans to file legal action against the city.
Park District Vice President Avis Lavelle told a packed Near North Side gymnasium crowd that the board had heard more than eight hours of public testimony: “I don’t recall any issue that has ever come before us that has been so thoroughly discussed as this,” Lavelle said.
Among the supporters was Timuel Black, a 96-year-old resident of Washington Park, who said the library in Chicago would promote a sense of community and inspire future political newcomers.
“It would help the community on all kinds of levels and certainly inspire many newcomers,” Black said.
“The natural place, as far as I’m concerned, historically, politically, every way I’m concerned is Washington Park,” Black said. “Washington Park has the history and brings unity to the community.”
Other supporters included about 30 Hyde Park Career Academy students who wore blue hats that read “Bring Obama Home To Chicago.”
Friends of the Parks President Cassandra Francis warned the board prior to their vote that the decision to approve would result in costly litigation.
The approval of the board on Wednesday means the city can go forward with the selection process.
The University of Chicago’s proposed library site is roughly 21 acres of Washington Park or 20 acres of Jackson Park.
Should Chicago not be chosen for the library, the land will remain park space.
The park district resolution follows an ordinance Emanuel introduced in January to allow for the transfer of land. Francis said her group is evaluating legal options and will take action following the City Council vote.
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