Obama Foundation making robust economic case for Obama Center

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Former President Barack Obama points out features of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in May at the South Shore Cultural Center. | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The Obama Foundation on Thursday released an upbeat economic impact study to bolster the case that the Obama Center will trigger the creation of thousands of South Side jobs – from internships to careers – and generate tax revenue for the city, Cook County and State of Illinois.

The study offered a more expansive view of the Obama Foundation “vision” of how the Obama Center, to be constructed in Jackson Park, will relate to other nearby institutions – as part of a “Museum Campus South” from McCormick Place to the South Shore Cultural Center.

That would take in the Museum of Science and Industry, the DuSable Museum, the Logan Center for the Arts and other entities – to be marketed as a group and branded as Chicago’s “Culture Coast.”

The economic impact assessment report released on Thursday was dated October 2016 was done by Deloitte Consulting.

The study was paid for by the Chicago Community Trust, a civic group taking an increasing interest in development related to the Obama Center. The Trust approved a $250,000 grant to create a non-profit organization to help maximize Obama Center related development for the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Obama Center is expected to be fully up and running by 2022, with collaborative programing running from local to global, whether on the ground or digital.

The summary was released days after former President Barack Obama unveiled a model of his Obama Center campus at the South Shore Cultural Center, where he noted the economic benefits expected to flow to the surrounding community – from, in the short term construction jobs to long term benefits from tourism.

Obama addressed specific local concerns about making sure the jobs and contracts flowed to the community at the South Shore event.

Some organizations in Woodlawn and Jackson Park have joined together to press the foundation for a “community benefits agreement” to guarantee that profits and jobs spawned by the center benefit people who live in the community.

The foundation pledged on Thursday to release at some point “a public audit to ensure the Obama Foundation is tracking well against the goals it sets for itself.”

“The OPC is expected to attract 625,000 to 760,000 visitors annually following a period of higher visitorship in the first few years,” the study estimated.

The summary from the study were released to underscore the case that the Center – a campus in Jackson Park with a museum, library, offices and indoor and outside event space – will trigger new development and revitalize the surrounding community.


For the South Side: “an economic impact of $2.1 billion during the construction period and first ten years of operations, with $339 million in economic impact and 1,407 direct, indirect and induced jobs created during construction. After its opening, the OPC would generate an annual economic impact of $177 million and 2,175 direct, indirect and induced jobs on the South Side.”

For the State of Illinois: “an economic impact of $883 million and create 6,493 direct, indirect and induced jobs. After its opening, the OPC would generate an annual economic impact of $266 million and 2,774 direct, indirect and induced jobs.”

The rosy conclusions track a forecast made several years ago in an economic study done for the University of Chicago, when it was

pushing for the Obama Center to be located on the South Side.

“Among the elements that have the most potential to be transformative for the City of Chicago and the South Side is the number of people who will come to visit the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), and, with the right mix of opportunities, stay to explore the South Side,” the summary of the study said.

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