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The Obama Foundation broke ground on its new project in September 2021. However, some Chicago residents fear that it will negatively impact the community.
The Barack Obama Presidential Center will be located in Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side. It will include a library and a museum, among other things. The project has gathered enough support to fund a portion of its $1.6 billion fundraising goal. In November, Jeff Bezos donated $100 million to honor the late Congressman John Lewis. There is to be a plaza named after Lewis at the request of Bezos.
The project is expected to bring high value to the area, which worries people. Rents and housing prices in the surrounding neighborhoods have rapidly increased since the center was announced in 2015.
Many residents face the impending doom of being displaced by the neighboring center. In addition, the prices will continue to rise as the project nears completion and possibly even more so when attractions at the center are announced.
Experts say the center will potentially do more damage than good. It will displace the very people it is trying to serve.
DePaul University professor Winifred Curran described the situation as an exercise in gentrification. “The Obama center is kind of like a signal to developers to get real estate now for cheap, and then the profit potential is huge.” As a result, many are calling for protections for affordable housing, so long-term residents do not lose their homes. Residents have been engaged in a six-year-long fight to address their concerns over the project.
The Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition was formed to help fight displacement. Residents are looking for assistance so they can see the project become a reality in their neighborhood, according to a member of the group, Dixon Romeo. They are not opposed to the idea, but they do not want to be displaced. Romeo explains why:
This is the community that sent President Obama to Springfield. This is the community that sent him to the Senate. This is the community that sent him to the White House, and we should be the community that gets to stay for the presidential center.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Obama Foundation: Jeff Bezos donates $100M to the Obama Foundation in honor of Congressman John Lewis
NBC News: ‘Can’t stay anymore’: Residents near new Obama Center fear being pushed out by gentrification; by Safia Samee Ali
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Inset Image Courtesy of Matt B’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License