Barack Obama’s presidential library slated to be built in The Windy City is being slammed by Chicagoans as a frivolous use of tax dollars – especially after the announcement that an additional $100 million will be needed to renovate city park land to accommodate it.
Besides consuming abundant amounts of taxpayers’ money, Chicago residents informed their largest daily that the library is an outright eyesore.
“[The Obama Presidential Center is an] ugly waste of taxpayer resources [and a] dangerous precedent [for the preservation of historic public parklands],” a recent letter to the Chicago Tribune reads, according to the Washington Times.
As ugly as it is expensive?
To accommodate what many locals are calling an obtrusive monstrosity, approximately 20 acres of Chicago’s historic Jackson Park will be leveled and consumed by library grounds – renovations to the land that will cost taxpayers $100 million, not to mention nearly $400 million in construction costs.
With its egg-shaped main tower measuring at eight stories and more than 230 feet tall and two other massive buildings, it is feared that the design of the future complex will take away from the city’s natural beauty.
“[The library will consist of] garish monstrosities that ruin the esthetics of the surrounding parkland stolen from the taxpaying public,” John Deal of Dolton, Illinois, wrote in a letter published in the Chicago Tribune on Friday, according to the Washington Times. “Does anyone else think the artist’s rendering of the proposed Obama Presidential Center campus is ugly?”
On Sunday, another letter was published by Chicago’s most popular newspaper.
“[I am appalled that the library is] taking valuable and irreplaceable park land that belongs to all the people of Chicago [in order to build an] empty monumental edifice,” Chicago resident Jerry Bruti expressed. “My suggestion: Build the Obama Presidential Center on vacant land that is not already dedicated as parkland, perhaps in an area that needs rejuvenation; and while at it, maybe spend those millions of dollars to build and endow a state-of-the-art school, library, affordable housing or other facility that the people of Chicago really need and can use to improve their quality of life.”
Besides the fact that the library will destroy much of the landscape of Jackson Park – which was designed by the same architects who plotted out New York City’s Central Park – it was recently announced that the center will not be designated as Obama’s official presidential library – nor will it house documents that were previously stored in the Obama White House.
“Two-hundred professors at the University of Chicago – where Mr. Obama lectured on constitutional law for more than a decade – signed a public letter this month denouncing the plans for the library as ‘socially regressive,’” the Washington Times’ Bradford Richardson pointed out. “They argued the library’s lush Jackson Park location, right on the lakefront, does little to rejuvenate Chicago’s economically underserved neighborhoods.”
The allegedly irresponsible and frivolous decision to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into a complex that many locals believe will minimally benefits the community was chided by Chicago’s academians.
“We are concerned that these are not the best ways to use public funds to invest in the future of Chicago,” the scholars insisted.
Too little, too much
In an attempt to appear to be accommodating, Obama Foundation CEO David Simas made a small concession.
“There were some comments about the first version of the tower being too monolithic, too bulky, taking up too much of a footprint,” Simas indicated, according to WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. “So, what we’ve done with the designers is to slim down the building.”
A group advocating the preservation of Jackson Park, called Friends of Parks (FOP), reluctantly accepted the library’s construction in Jackson Park, and the organization is still upset about the bulky museum tower, which it says is not being trimmed down enough.
Everything – from lacking benefits for the community, to causing gridlock, to unsubstantiated evidence that the park would generate an economic boom for neighborhood residents – was mentioned in a complaint letter issued by the University of Chicago faculty to the Obama Foundation, yet organizer W. J. T. Mitchell, a professor of English and Art History, is disappointed with the foundation’s lack of interest in hearing them out.
“They have listened only grudgingly,” Mitchell lamented. “Often, they’ll do a sales pitch for an hour or two, and hand out a questionnaire. They’ve pulled back on putting a parking lot on the Midway, and modified the design of the building, but there are really more fundamental questions they need to answer.”
Despite the university’s grievances, some are asking school officials why they are refusing to allocate any of their own campus land to build the complex after they won the contest to host the Obama center.
Even though Charles F. Falk believes that Obama should have some kind of a public monument to observe his accomplishments, he questioned the validity of erecting what he considers to be a theme park in the city for the 44th president.
“[Would the] mini-Disneyland/Obamaland [be better placed] in a locale where it would improve a neighborhood – instead of tearing up [Jackson Park], an established treasure?” Falk posed in his letter to the Tribune early last week. “Chicago should relocate or scrap the Obama Center. If scrapped, the tens of millions of tax dollars not spent on infrastructure for the center would pay for a simple Obama monument and a plaque harmlessly placed on an acre in Jackson Park.”
Specs and speculations
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel – Obama’s former chief-of-staff during his first term – filed the plans for the Obama library complex, which includes a library, museum and forum that sit on a lavish 22 acres of parkland. The tallest building will rise 235 feet above Chicago’s skyline, with the construction cost of the buildings estimated at $375 million – not to mention the additional $100 million used to tailor the park’s landscaping to the complex.
Many are skeptical about the future financial gain the Obama Foundation forecasted for the community – as a result of the library complex.
“[The anticipated financial impact on city of Chicago in first 10 years [is forecasted] at $3.1 billion,” Marketwatch.com revealed from figures provided by the foundation’s website. “[The] estimated number of jobs to be created in first 10 years [is expected to be in] the ‘thousands,’ according to the foundation.”
If things go as planned for the Obama Presidential Center, Chicagoans can expect to walk through its doors as early as 2021.