When the University of Chicago finally unveiled its Obama Library plans last week, two of the self-proclaimed "park-positive" concepts drew criticism for their reliance on land in Jackson or Washington parks, which made the library foundation uneasy due to ownership issues and caused the Friends of the Parks to write to the Obamas, saying they wouldn't support the plans. But does building the library on a park have to be a problem? In an editorial that recently ran in the Tribune, Vicky and George Ranney, president of Metropolis 2020 and a trustee emeritus of the University of Chicago, listed common-sense guidelines for developing within Frederick Law Olmsted's famous public spaces while maintaining the spirit of the original design. Considering that Vicky Ranney is an Olmsted scholar and co-founder of Friends of the Parks, those looking to avoid a Lucas-like land-use fiasco may want to at least consider their ideas.
Not surprisingly, the suggestions point to a more conservative, conservationist approach. "Minimize building in the parks," "Replace any land used for buildings with new or reclaimed park acreage" and "Restore and revitalize the parks" seem like no-brainers, and while the University already notes that its initial plans would leave a smaller footprint than the last three presidential libraries, it would be a shame to develop on such important parkland without at least replacing green space acre for acre. A suggestion to "bury" the six-lane Cornell Drive east under new parkland would create a link between a proposed library in Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry.
The Ranneys also propose any library work together with other institutions in the area, such as the DuSable Museum, and suggest building a transport hub between 59th and 60th streets if the Jackson Park site is chosen. The last idea, one that isn't part of the current University of Chicago proposal, would have the dual benefit of decreasing reliance on cars, while potentially providing more economic stimulus to the area, another key requirement for any Obama Library site.
·The University of Chicago Finally Shares Its Obama Library Plans [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Obama library coverage [Curbed Chicago]