WASHINGTON — For the first time, the top Obama Foundation officials and consultants will discuss at a public meeting the program and design plans for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
The meeting will be next Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Hyatt hotel at McCormick Place with doors to open at 5 p.m. with the discussion to start at 5:45 p.m. The foundation officials will include Michael Strautmanis, vice president of civic engagement; museum director Louise Bernard, who will be making her public debut in Chicago; Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, lead architects for the center; and Michael Van Valkenburgh, lead landscape designer for the center.
Bernard is leading the design, development and operation planning for the museum and is just starting to raise her public profile. She will be speaking next month at the Lincoln presidential library in Springfield.
The foundation is stepping up outreach as design plans are being finalized in order to submit them to the Chicago Plan Commission by the end of the year and with some proposed elements, such as street closings, controversial.
The Chicago Park District is holding hearings on the center on Sept. 21 and Sept. 25 with many issues still on the table, including how to make the park district whole in the wake of the Obama Center being built on park land and the overall future of all of Jackson Park.
A proposal to combine the Jackson and South Shore golf courses into one is also controversial and while it is not a formal foundation initiative, the thought is it would not be going forward without some kind of blessing from former President Barack Obama.
This meeting comes as the foundation has been putting pieces of the community outreach plan into place. Last month, a nonprofit was created to leverage the economic impact of the center for the surrounding communities. And on Aug. 31, the foundation released the minority contracting goals it is setting for companies wanting to land big contracts to build the center, a complex to include a museum, office and event space, recording studio, gardens and athletic fields.
“We appreciate the feedback we have already received from our neighbors in the South Side and beyond from the city’s public meetings, our smaller group meetings and surveys,” David Simas, chief executive officer at the Obama Foundation, said in a statement.
“President and Mrs. Obama are developing the OPC in the South Side to give back to the community that has given so much to them. The center is designed to unlock the full potential of Jackson Park and help support economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods, in order to fulfill those goals, we believe we must continue to discuss with the community what they want out of the center in Jackson Park. We look forward to hearing from residents on how the Obama Foundation can be a vital part of this community.”