Obama Presidential Center
The Obama Presidential Center will bring world-class cultural, economic, and educational benefits to the South Side and the entire City of Chicago for generations to come.
In his final months as the nation’s 44th president, Barack Obama selected the 19.3-acre site in Jackson Park after a year-long process that included extensive community engagement. Designed by architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, the campus will function as a world-class museum and public gathering space that showcases the South Side to the world.
The plan includes an eight-story museum building and a pair of cultural buildings that will surround a central plaza. In addition to ticketed exhibition spaces, the interconnected buildings will contain many community resources, including a winter garden, an auditorium, food services, recording studios, meeting rooms and a 5,000-square-foot Chicago Public Library branch. More than half of the space in the Obama Center will be free and open to the public.
The complex is estimated to generate 700,000 annual visitors, a long-term economic impact of more than $3 billion, and more than 5,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs. The Obama Foundation has set a goal of 50 percent participation by diverse subcontractors, with 35 percent of the construction workforce building the Center coming from South and West sides of Chicago.
The City of Chicago, through the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and the Department of Transportation (CDOT), is working on several roadway changes and transportation improvement projects in Jackson Park that will support the OPC and the Chicago Park District's South Lakefront Framework Plan update. When these projects are completed, they will support a revitalized Jackson Park and strengthen the surrounding area.
Open Space and Road Work
To meet anticipated traffic demands, work began in spring 2021 to reform the street grid within and surrounding Jackson Park. This work is being conducted by the Chicago Park District, the Obama Foundation, and CDOT.
The OPC and the City’s roadway changes will create five acres of park space in Jackson Park by converting the following roadway segments to parkland:
- Cornell Drive between North Midway Plaisance and Hayes Drive
- South Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell
- Marquette Drive between Stony Island and Richards Drive
- Northbound Cornell Drive between 68th Street and where Cornell becomes two-way
Additional roadway and pedestrian improvements are planned to handle existing and future traffic and improve connectivity within Jackson Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. They include:
- Adding a third, southbound lane on Lake Shore Drive from 57th Street to Hayes
- Improving capacity and safety on Hayes between Lake Shore Drive and Cornell
- Adding a travel lane in each direction on Stony Island between 59th and 64th streets, while maintaining on-street parking and loading lanes
- Streetscaping Stony Island with planted medians, left turn lanes at key intersections, and pedestrian refuge islands to enhance safety
- Reconfiguring the intersection of Stony Island, Midway Plaisance, 59th and 60th streets to improve capacity and safety
- Creating new pedestrian underpasses at Hayes west of Lake Shore, and two at the Hayes and Cornell intersection.
- Branding new pathways within Jackson Park to improve connections for people biking and walking.
- Modernizing or installing ten traffic signals to synchronize vehicular flow with potential transit signal priority technology for buses
- Installing new energy-efficient streetlights along the new sections of roadway
A number of planning measures will ensure the OPC will benefit the surrounding Woodlawn community, including DPD’s Woodlawn Plan Consolidation Report, adopted in May 2020, which unified two decades of neighborhood planning documents into a single, implementable vision for the community.
A key component of the Woodlawn Plan Consolidation Report is the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance, which is creating new programs and regulations that will protect against displacement and create new affordable housing opportunities for existing residents.
The City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and the Obama Foundation have continuously offered a range of ways for the community to share feedback on the OPC, related transportation projects, and updates to the South Lakefront Framework Plan. Following these collective efforts, the Obama Presidential Center was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council in 2018.
In addition, the roadway changes in and around Jackson Park and the conversion of the 19-acre OPC site in Jackson Park for use as a museum campus underwent a three-year federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which involved extensive public participation. Extensive details and documentation about the federal review process, which concluded in February 2021, are available on the federal review project webpage.
The Obama Foundation invites all interested parties to register for email updates as construction work begins. An official groundbreaking ceremony is planned for fall 2021, but activity on the site will begin in mid-August. Project updates will be available throughout the Obama Center’s development from the following project websites: