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New hearing date for Obama Center lawsuit could help project foes

The grounds being cleared for the construction of The Barack Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, across from the Hyde Park Academy High School. | Rick Majewski/For the Sun-Times.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel formally introduced a pair of ordinances to seal a 99-year deal to build the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

Earlier that day, in U.S. District Court, there was another hearing in a lawsuit filed to prevent the use of Jackson Park for the Obama Center complex.

At that hearing, a judge told City Hall lawyers he was “disappointed” that they told the court there was no connection between the Obama Center development and the construction begun in August on an athletic field just south of the site. The new field, paid for by the Obama Foundation, is needed to replace an existing field on land to become part of the Obama complex.

The judge also declined a bid by the city to strengthen their hand by having the next hearing on the lawsuit in November — after the City
Council Oct. 31 meeting where the ordinances would be up for a vote and likely passage.

The next court hearing instead will be Oct. 24, meaning activists seeking to block the project, which is being built in a public park, will be able to make a presentation to the judge before the vote — and they can use the discovery process to force the city to reveal information.

Contributing: Mark Brown, Fran Spielman