Our Pledge To You

Columnists

Group suing city to block Obama Center in Jackson Park gets $100,000 grant

This is the latest site plan for the Obama Presidential Center. | Obama Foundation

WASHINGTON — The small group behind the federal lawsuit challenging the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park got a big boost on Wednesday, a $100,000 “initial” grant from the Reva and David Logan Foundation.

The Logan Foundation money is to “support” the “fight” by Protect Our Parks “to stop the inappropriate allocation of public land at Jackson Park to a private foundation,” the foundation said in a statement.

On May 14, 2018, the group, Protect Our Parks, filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District.

The Obama Presidential Foundation is not a party to the case but has rallied support in organizing friend of the court briefs.

The lawsuit, plus a slow-going federal review of the Obama Center development, proposed for 19.3 acres in the historic park, has pushed back groundbreaking to an undetermined date.

Further delays could occur since both candidates for mayor in Tuesday’s runoff election — Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle —  have said they support some sort of a community development agreement to be part of the Obama Center deal. That is a position opposed by former President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is out of office in a few weeks.

The legal challenge to the Jackson Park development has been run on a shoestring. The Logan Foundation said in its statement, “This grant is designated for general operations and may be used to pay the ever mounting legal fees or for whatever purpose Protect Our Parks feels will further its just cause.”

“We believe that this ‘land grab’ is both legally and morally wrong, and that the City of Chicago, the Obama Foundation and their partners need to reconsider their choice of location for this project” said board chairman Richard Logan in the statement.

“There are so many sites in the city that could benefit from the kudos, the opportunities for employment and the neighborhood regeneration without taking public land and destroying historic city parklands,” he said.

The Logan family funded the construction of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th. The Logan Foundation is involved in programs and other collaborations at the Logan Center.

The Chicago-based family foundation describes itself as providing “strategic grants to support social justice, scholarship, the arts and investigative journalism both in Chicago and around the world.”

The city is currently battling Protect Our Parks over production of documents and making witnesses available for depositions. There is a possibility of a Thursday hearing, with the judge making the call in the morning.

In a Wednesday court filing, Protect Our Parks argued, City Hall “is attempting to jam the Plaintiffs’ attorneys and not designate witnesses until the last minute, providing the Plaintiffs with no time to prepare for the depositions.

“Further, the City’s next anticipated move is the claim that they do not have adequate time to designate, prepare and present witnesses for depositions. The City is essentially trying to run out the clock on discovery.”

Discovery is supposed to be completed by April 19, under the current schedule.

Protect Our Parks is represented by the law firm of Roth Fioretti. Former Ald. Bob Fioretti lost his bid for mayor in the February election. City Hall’s Law Department added Mayer Brown attorneys to its team; the Park District hired attorneys at Burke, Warren, Mackay & Serritella.