South Side residents express support for Washington Park and Woodlawn sites for Obama Presidential Library

On Jan. 8, South Side residents and community leaders sent the following letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

To: Mayor Rahm Emanuel

The Obama Presidential Library offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the South Side and for all of Chicago. We are writing in response to recent reports that the Barack Obama Foundation is asking the City of Chicago to make public land available for the presidential library. We urge the city to take swift action to secure the needed sites on the South Side, which is clearly the best location for an institution that will spur economic development, inspire young people and honor President Obama’s legacy.


The presidential library project has enormous support among the people of the South Side. Most of us can’t imagine locating the library anywhere else, and we see this as a crucial opportunity to strengthen our communities and create 1,900 permanent jobs. The proposed locations on the mid-South Side have the potential to create a new jewel for this part of Chicago.

We favor prompt steps to resolve the issue of parkland. As people who live and work on the South Side, we are deeply proud of our historic parks, which help make this a wonderful home. We support a plan that honors the distinctive character of our parks while maintaining and enhancing the park space available to the public—a key element of the South Side’s bid for the library. If making parkland available on these terms will help bring the library to the South Side, you have our strong support to get it done.

Public input is essential in this process, and so is timely action. We look forward to public hearings that reflect the needs and priorities of South Side residents, who will especially benefit from the library project. We expect the city and the University of Chicago, which is leading the South Side bid, to work with us and act quickly to resolve any issues raised by the Barack Obama Foundation.

Your immediate leadership is needed to do what is necessary to bring the Obama Presidential Library to the South Side and make this transformative opportunity a reality. Mayor Emanuel, let’s bring it on home!


Carol Adams
Founder, Museum Campus South

Torrey Barrett
Executive Director, The KLEO Center

Fran Bell
Group Vice President, YMCA of Metro Chicago

Timuel Black
Educator, Historian and Civil Rights Activist
Author, Bridges of Memory

Robert Blackwell
President and CEO, The DuSable Museum of African American History

Byron Brazier
Pastor and Chairman, Apostolic Church of God and Network of Woodlawn

Mattie Butler
Executive Director, Woodlawn East Community And Neighbors Inc.

Cecilia Butler
President, Washington Park Advisory Council

Michelle Collins
President, Cambium LLC

Guy Comer
President, Comer Science and Education Foundation

William Eager
Vice President, Chicago Area, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc.

Henry English
President and CEO, Black United Fund of Illinois, Inc.

Leon D. Finney, Jr.
Pastor, Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church and President, Woodlawn Community Development Corporation

Ghian Foreman
Executive Director, Greater Southwest Development Corporation

Val Free
Executive Director, The Planning Coalition

Wallace Goode
Executive Director, Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce

Donna Hampton-Smith
President, Washington Park Chamber of Commerce, NFP

Christopher Harris
Pastor, Bright Star Church of God in Christ

Bernita Johnson-Gabriel
Executive Director, Quad Communities Development Corporation

David Kay
Executive Director, MetroSquash

Cliff Kelley
Radio Host, WVON

Walter Massey
President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Fr. Tony Mazurkiewicz
President, Mount Carmel High School

Patric McCoy
President, Diasporal Rhythms

Dorri McWhorter
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Greg Mooney
Executive Director, Comer Science & Education Foundation & Gary Comer Youth Center

David Mosena
President and CEO, Museum of Science and Industry

R. Susan Motley
Volunteer, South Side Resident

Kamau Murray
Executive Director, XS Tennis and Education Foundation

Shirley Newsome
Chairman, Board of Directors, South East Chicago Commission/Quad Communities Development Corporation

Terry Peterson
Vice President of Corporate and External Affairs, Rush University Medical Center

James Reynolds
Chairman and CEO, Loop Capital Markets

Jesse Ruiz
Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP & Vice President, Chicago Board of Education

Richard Tolliver
Rector, St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church

David Vitale
Chairman, Urban Partnership Bank

David W. Watkins III
Senior Pastor, Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church

Andrea Zopp
President and CEO, Chicago Urban League

Community members can get more information about the presidential library bid at