Obama Presidential Center Hits Paper. Here’s The Details and Diagrams

The Obama Presidential Center, planned for a sunny stretch of Jackson Park, has been making headlines around the world for the last few weeks.  But not in a good way.

Publications from British tabloids to glossy Asian design mags to conspiracy web sites have been carrying stories about what appears to be growing opposition to the project’s scale, impact, location, and sometimes even its existence.

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Recently the Chicago Tribune tried to quench the flames of controversy from batshit crazy to merely Lucille Ball crazy by pointing out that all the things that everyone’s got their undies in a bundle about are just concepts.  Ideas.  That what’s making so many people upset is still subject to revision and improvement.  And that until we see something concrete, there’s nothing to worry about.

Well, you can start worrying.

Rendering of the Obama Presidential Center (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

Rendering of the Obama Presidential Center (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

The official paperwork has been filed with the City of Chicago to build the Obama Presidential Center.  We’re not going to offer an opinion on it at this time, though in the past we have stated that giving public park land to a private entity is a little queer, especially considering how much vacant private land there is nearby.

The Obama Foundation is seeking Planned Development zoning for the project; the kind you usually see for a big skyscraper.  This is not unusual, though.  City ordinance requires that any campus-style institution’s land be zoned as a PD.  The neighboring Museum of Science and Industry, for example, is PD587.

Officially, the Obama Center’s zoning will allow:

  • Community center
  • Recreation center
  • Assembly space
  • Community garden
  • Passive open space
  • “[A] library and accessory uses related to the principal cultural exhibits and library uses, including…”
    • Research
    • Administration
    • Office
    • Food and beverage retail
    • Eating and drinking establishments
    • Liquor license
    • General retail sales
    • Special events and entertainment
    • Terrace and rooftop outdoor patios
    • Parking
Outline of the grounds of the proposed Obama Presidential Center (basemap via Apple Maps)

Outline of the grounds of the proposed Obama Presidential Center (basemap via Apple Maps)

Approval is still needed from the the city’s zoning board, the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Chicago Plan Commission, the Chicago city council, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.  There are probably others that we missed.

But for now, at least, it’s just the facts, ma’am; in our usual firehouse fashion.

  • Address: 1601-1629 East Midway Plaisance
  • Address: 5901-6201 South Cornell Drive
  • Address: 5901-6201 South Stony Island Avenue
  • Address: 1600-1631 East Midway Plaisance
  • Developer: The Barack Obama Foundation
  • Architecture firm: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
  • Architecture firm: Interactive Design Architects
  • Floor area ratio: 1.0
  • Zoning change: POS-1 Parks and Open Space → Planned Development
  • Public space to be used: 840,848 square feet (19.3 acres)
  • Public park to be used: 616,265 square feet
  • Public streets to be used: 224,583 square feet
  • Maximum height: 235 feet
  • Automobile parking: 450 spaces
  • Bicycle parking: 38 spaces
  • Loading docks: 3
  • Buildings: 5 — Museum Building, Forum Building, Library Building, underground parking garage, Athletic Center
  • Museum Building
    • Maximum height: 235 feet
    • Maximum length: 200 feet
  • Forum Building
    • Maximum height: 38 feet
  • Library Building
    • Maximum height: 38 feet
  • Athletic Center
    • Maximum height: 18 feet
  • Parking garage:
    • Entry from South Stony Island Avenue
    • Exit from South Stony Island Avenue
    • Maximum length: 485 feet
    • Maximum width: 328 feet
    • Parking spaces: 18’x8’6″

Location: 5901 South Stony Island Avenue, 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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