The foundation hopes to break ground on the center in late-2018, with plans to open its doors in 2021.
In addition to concerns about diminishing parkland, the letter suggests that building the Obama Center at the Jackson Park site is unlikely to spark economic investment in the surrounding area, which already includes the Museum of Science of Industry and the University.
"First, there are concerns that the Obama Center as now planned will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhood", the letter explains.
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"Michelle and I want this center to be more than just a building". Not only are public lands being given to a private entity but the public will pay to have Cornell Drive closed and Stony Island Avenue and Lake Shore Drive widened. However, it questions the decision to locate the center in Jackson Park. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel served as Obama's first chief of staff in the White House.
The letter hammered the Obama Foundation's plans to build a 450-space parking lot, saying that it is "socially regressive" because it privileges people who can afford to have a vehicle. The garage was initially slated to take up five acres on the historic Midway Plaisance, another part of the Chicago park system. Martin Nesbitt, Chair of the Obama Foundation board, said that the changes are the result of "thousands of conversations" with local residents and activists.
"While we don't expect everyone to agree with every element of the plan, we look forward to working with people across the community and the city to make the most of the opportunity to create a global destination that will showcase the South Side to the world", the spokesperson said in a statement. But the patchwork "remedies" presented by the Obama Foundation do not address the fundamental problem of Jackson Park being the wrong choice for the center.
Member groups include the Black Youth Project 100, the Bronzeville Regional Collective and Southside Together Organizing for Power.