Obama Presidential Center would have ‘adverse impact’ on historic Jackson Park, federal review concludes

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tags: Barack Obama, Chicago, Obama Presidential Center, Jackson Park

Construction of the $500 million Obama Presidential Center will have an “adverse impact” on historic Jackson Park that must be mitigated, a federal review has concluded.

In a report triggered by Jackson Park’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Federal Highway Administration homed in on the negative impact the four-building complex would have on the majestic Midway Plaisance and the Jackson Park Historic Landscape District.

The project would diminish the “the historic property’s overall integrity by altering historic, internal spatial divisions that were designed as a single entity” by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the FHA concluded. 

It also concludes the “size and scale of new buildings” would “diminish the intended prominence of the Museum of Science and Industry building and alter the overall composition and design intent of balancing park scenery with specific built areas.”

The release of the report triggers a 30-day public comment period.

“The changes impact how Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance reflect conscious decisions made by the Olmsted firm in determining the organization, forms, patterns of circulation, relationships between major features, arrangement of vegetation, and views,” the report states.

“The combined changes diminish the sense of a particular period of time within the historic property and impact the integrity of feeling.” The project would, therefore, alter “characteristics of the historic property that qualify it for inclusion in the National Register” and require “deviating from the simple formality of open space that reflects the historic design principle of informal symmetry and balance in design.”

The finding puts pressure on the Obama Foundation to find a way to “resolve adverse effects” and turns up the heat on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to order the foundation to make those changes. 

“The Obama Foundation has yet to show any interest in compromising on any of this. It may take [Lightfoot] to bring them to the table,” said Margaret Schmid, co-president of Jackson Park Watch.

“It means there are lots of new obstacles facing this proposal. A big question is, does Chicago want to go on record as having allowed a project that has major adverse impacts on this important historic park or can the project be redesigned to be compatible with this historic landscape?”

Read entire article at Chicago Sun Times

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