Obama Center Clarifies Its Plaisance Park Parking Plan

The Obama Foundation has revealed its plans for a chunk of the Midway Plaisance across the street from the new Barack Obama Presidential Center.  It wants to use the  tree-lined open lawn for a parking garage and transit center.

The Obama Foundation describes the public open parkland as “underutilized,” which is kind of the point of open parkland.  In modern landscaping terms, the space will be “activated” with a park-capped parking garage, a tour bus staging area, a picnic area, and a play lot.

An earlier plan for the Obama Center alluded to changes on this block.  The digram showed improved landscaping, curving pathways, and rudimentary driveways.  But it was not labeled “Parking Garage” the way the Museum, Forum, Plaza, and other features of what may be a billion-dollar project were.

(Left to right) The Midway Plaisance block today, the original proposal, and the current proposal.

(Left to right) The Midway Plaisance block today, the original proposal, and the current proposal.

That earlier plan included a pedestrian tunnel connecting the parking block with the main campus, avoiding potential problems with hordes of tourists unloading from buses and crossing South Stony Island Avenue en masse.    The latest plan puts a median on Stony Island, corralling people into crossing the street at Midway Plaisance Drive and 60th Street, an ideal set-up for a scramble crossing.

Obama Foundation Announces Proposal for Combined Park & Parking Facility for Obama Presidential Center

Chicago, IL – Today, the Obama Foundation announced its proposal for a combined park and parking facility on an underutilized section of the Midway Plaisance across from the future site of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). The OPC will be located in historic Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago, a community the Obamas call home. President and Mrs. Obama chose to bring the OPC to the South Side, in part, to give back to the community that has given them so much. The Center will strengthen the economic climate in the community by bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the South Side every year, creating new jobs on the South Side and revitalizing Jackson Park. The proposed park and parking facility will support those goals by stimulating the streets around the OPC with increased pedestrian activity.

The OPC and the parking facility are designed to unlock the full potential of Jackson Park as a recreational destination for the community and visitors alike. The facility will be covered and surrounded by a new 3-4 acre park that will be open to the public and provide views of Jackson Park and its lagoons, and numerous new recreational opportunities, such as a picnic area, a children’s play area and more. The existing Cheney-Goode Memorial will be retained as part of the proposed redevelopment of this parkland. The proposal includes off-street bus drop-off and pick-up, bicycle parking, and a close connection to Metra.

“The Foundation evaluates each proposal for the design of the OPC through the lens of supporting our surrounding community. Building a parking facility on the Midway continues the Obama Foundation’s goal of revitalizing Jackson Park and spurring economic activity across the South Side,” explained David Simas, Chief Executive Officer at the Obama Foundation. “With this proposal, we are increasing foot traffic within the community, not just in Jackson Park, and creating new park space for families to gather and play.”

The parking facility is expected to hold 400-450 vehicles. The parking facility will be paid for by the Obama Foundation.

The Midway Plaisance is owned by the City of Chicago. Pending input from the community and approval by the City Council, the City would convey rights for parking to the Obama Foundation.

In May, President and Mrs. Obama announced their initial design concept for the OPC. In June, July and August, the Obama Foundation has participated in dozens of one-on-one meetings, small group meetings with the community, and public meetings with the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Chicago Department of Transportation, and Alderman Leslie Hairston. The Foundation also issued an online survey to receive feedback on its design concepts. Today’s combined park and parking facility proposal includes input from those feedback sessions.

Location: 1501 East Midway Plaisance Drive, East Hyde Park

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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