After enduring a lengthy federal review and a lawsuit filed by open space advocates, the Obama Presidential Center is ready to move forward in Jackson Park. The $500 million project is slated to finally break ground this summer and pre-construction activity, such as work to relocate utility lines, could begin as early as next month.
In the meantime, the Obama Foundation has put the final touches on the design of the 235-foot-tall museum building. In a recent video, former President Obama revealed that the tower's upper levels will be wrapped in a screen made of oversized text excerpts from his 2015 speech in Selma, Alabama.
The museum is just one component of the Obama Presidential Center campus, which was designed by New York-based firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects as more of a community hub than a traditional repository for official documents.
The center will contain a branch of the Chicago Public Library, an athletic facility, and new green space including a community garden and natural wetlands flanking the Jackson Park lagoon.
Another sign that construction is gearing up came last week when the foundation announced a workforce hiring initiative. The plan aims to fill 35 percent of construction positions with residents of South and West Side neighborhoods like Woodlawn, Englewood, and Austin and will award 50 percent of sub-contracts to minorities (nearly double the city’s goal).
Even if everything goes smoothly from this point onward, the OPC is expected to take four years to complete. That timeline puts the center opening sometime in 2025—a full decade after the Obamas' announced in 2015 that the project would make its home on Chicago’s South Side.