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Obama Center scraps above-ground parking garage after neighborhood opposition

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The historic Midway Plaisance will remain untouched for now

Obama Foundation

The plans for an above-ground parking garage on the Midway Plaisance near the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park were thrown out after opposition from the surrounding community.

The two-story parking garage was redesigned in late December to include landscaped slopes on all sides. However, those design changes did little to address the community’s concern with disrupting the Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed park.

Brenda Nelmes, co-founder of Jackson Park Watch, told Curbed Chicago in a previous story, that the community had questioned if the inclusion of parking garage was truly “forward thinking.”

Monday afternoon, more than 100 University of Chicago faculty members released a statement detailing their concern about the Obama Presidential Center, Crain’s first reported. While the faculty is in favor of the center choosing a location near the university, they’re opposed to giving away land in a historic public park and believe the proposed location wouldn’t do much to stimulate economic development.

Obama Foundation

According to Crain’s, shortly after the statement was sent, the foundation announced it would eliminate the above-ground parking garage on the east end of the Midway Plaisance, and instead create a parking garage underneath the center in Jackson Park.

Another organization, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, is grateful that the center is responding to community feedback, however, still feels strongly that “public parkland should not be confiscated for the Obama Presidential Center,” President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum wrote in an email.

Currently, the plans for the Obama Presidential Center are under federal review, a process that won’t be completed until the summer or fall of 2018. This will be crucial in determining whether a ground breaking this year will happen in Jackson Park.