South Side leaders welcome Obama Presidential Center site selection

Jeremy Manier
Assistant Vice President of CommunicationsUniversity Communications

The Barack Obama Foundation brought together area leaders on Aug. 3 to discuss the foundation’s selection of Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side as the future site of the Obama Presidential Center.

On a sunny morning at the Museum of Science and Industry beside the waters of Jackson Park’s Columbia Basin, speakers described the benefits that the center will bring to communities across the South Side.

“The Obama Presidential Center here in Jackson Park will provide an array of new opportunities for all our young people, and it will be a catalyst for economic development, cultural enrichment and community programming,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “The South Side of Chicago is home to rich traditions of arts and culture, a strong community spirit and sustained social engagement.” Zimmer said the project “stands to benefit all of our neighboring communities and the Chicago region as a whole.”

Zimmer and other speakers noted the site’s historic significance as part of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, as well as the South Side’s vibrant cultural legacy. Marty Nesbitt, chair of the Obama Foundation, said plans are underway to ensure that the center will serve as a cultural resource and an economic engine with broad reach.

“For the first time in this country’s history, a presidential center will be in the heart of an urban community,” Nesbitt said. “We are committed to supporting the efforts to encourage economic growth and engagement that will span across the area.”

The city of Chicago announced on July 29 that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen from the South Side will convene stakeholders to help coordinate and engage local communities in efforts for economic development as plans for the Obama Presidential Center progress. Emanuel said at the Aug. 3 event that the entire South Side community stands to benefit from what he described as a “once-in-a-lifetime cultural and educational investment.”

In addition to Nesbitt, Emanuel and Zimmer, speakers at the event included Dr. Byron T. Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God; Pastor T.L. Barrett; Ald. Willie B. Cochran (20th Ward); Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) and Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward).

More information on the Jackson Park site can be found on the Obama Foundation’s website.