Several caisson and site-clearing permits were issued this week for the Obama Presidential Center, a multi-building educational and cultural center planned by The Obama Foundation. Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood and set to occupy a portion of Jackson Park, the complex will contain three main buildings around a central plaza space. This plaza area will be able to host planned events and public artwork.
The landscape architectural design for the center will be overseen by Michael van Valkenburgh Associates alongside Site Design Group and Living Habitats. Meanwhile, the buildings themselves have been designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Interactive Design Architects.
The first building will be the museum, a 235-foot-tall structure that will serve as the project’s centerpiece. The museum tower massing will involve two stacked frustums, enveloped in a mix of tan stone cladding, a glass curtain wall, and a decorative screen wall made up of alphabetical characters. The top portion will be occupied by the Sky Room, which will offer 360-degree views of the city and lake.
The second building, known as The Forum, will be a community destination for locals. Programming involves an auditorium, a broadcast and recording studio, meeting and activity space, and a restaurant.
The third building is a new branch of the Chicago Library, with several noteworthy features, such as informational and vocational resources, play spaces with digital interactions for children, and a rooftop garden area.
The design of these second and third buildings will primarily match the material palette of the main tower, though with a much shorter profile. Beyond this central plaza area, the surrounding site will provide new landscaping and activities for visitors. These features consist of play areas, walking paths, a sledding hill, and connect a central pedestrian promenade that integrates with the rest of the park and its lagoons.
The development will offer parking in a two-story garage, while various other transit options are available nearby. Multiple bus stops for Routes 2, 6, 15, and 28 lie along the adjacent S Stony Island Avenue. Other bus lines within a 10-minute walk include Routes 10 and 55 to the northeast, Route 59 to the south, and Route 171 to the northwest. While the nearest CTA L access is a half-hour southwest to the Green Line at Cottage Grove station, the Metra is within paces of the site, with its closest station the University of Chicago/59th Street station.
A target construction commencement date has been set for next month. However, as reported in a recent article by Crain’s, the Obama Foundation is currently involved in a lawsuit filed by Protect Our Parks this past April. The lawsuit raises concerns related to the removal of mature trees, bird migratory patterns, park alterations, and road disruptions caused by construction. Given the lawsuit, a court-ordered construction moratorium is still a possibility, and may add up to $2.2 million in cost for each month of delay.
As of now, construction is expected to cost roughly half a billion dollars, with an additional $200 million for overhead costs. The newly issued filings list Turner Construction Company as the general contractor. Provided that the current timeline remains track, the project is anticipated to open to the public around 2025.