Chicago Nonprofit Files Lawsuit to Block the Obama Presidential Center

Protect Our Parks Inc., a nonprofit organization in Chicago, filed a lawsuit on Monday attempting to block the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, located in the city’s South Side neighborhood.

The lawsuit claims that the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago do not have the power to transfer government-owned parkland to a non-governmental agency like the Obama Foundation, according to The Chicago Tribune.

It also alleges that doing so would be “a short con shell game, a corrupt scheme to deceive and seemingly legitimize an illegal land grab,” and accused those in charge of building the center of pulling an “institutional bait and switch” by preventing the center from being a “true presidential library.”

This likely refers to the fact that while the Obama Center is set to feature archives from his presidency, as presidential libraries typically do, it also plans to house a community center, public plaza, and athletic center.

“The City and Park District clearly realize and fully understand that this established law precludes the Park District from arbitrarily transferring possession, use and control of this dedicated ‘open, clear and free’ public parkland in Jackson Park to a private nongovernmental […] entity’s self-determined use,” the nonprofit wrote in its complaint.

The city responded to the statement on Monday, according to the Tribune.

“The Obama Presidential Center is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest hundreds of millions of dollars that will create good jobs on the South Side, bring our communities together and honor the legacy of Chicago’s favorite son and daughter. While some choose to stand in the way of progress for the South Side, we are focused on making progress in every community in Chicago,” its statement said.

The lawsuit was filed just a few days before the Chicago Plan Commission is set to discuss modifications to the Obama Presidential Center’s current plans and long-term grounds lease.

The center is expected to open in 2021.

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