Construction Update
Rahm’s “Meigs Moment:” Not-Yet-Approved Obama Center Leaving a Premature Scar on Jackson Park

Remember in 2003 when former mayor Richard M. Daley bulldozed Meigs Field in the middle of the night?  It was an act of hubris that cost the city $33,000 in federal fines and a million dollars in misspent airport funds.  At the time, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The issue is Daley’s increasingly authoritarian style that brooks no disagreements, legal challenges, negotiations, compromise or any of that messy give-and-take normally associated with democratic government.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel just had his Meigs Moment.

Obama Presidential Center model (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

Obama Presidential Center model (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

That’s because, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports, the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago have decided to go ahead and start tearing up Jackson Park just south of the proposed location of the Barack Obama Presidential Center.  This, even though there is still a long list of federal agencies which have not yet approved the construction of the project in Jackson Park. Plus, there’s a pesky pending federal lawsuit.

The irony is that this comes just a month after the lawsuit seeking to block the Obama Center construction was put on hold because the city and the Park District argued that the suit was premature since there is no formal agreement between the city and the Obama Foundation yet.

Even without an agreement, an estimated 300 trees have allegedly been tagged for destruction in the vicinity of the Obama Center project.  The Sun-Times has published photographs of some of the trees stacked up like cord wood.  Because that’s all they are now.

And about that pledge from Obama Foundation CEO David Simas not to mess with the trees until it had construction permits in hand?  That’s OK, because the trees aren’t being cut down to make room for the Obama Center.  They’re being cut down to make room for a sports field that is being pushed out by the Obama Center.  A move funded by the foundation.  So Mr. Simas is technically correct. And technically correct is the best kind of correct.

The next move in this chess game was planned for August 28th.  We’ll see if a park infested with urban lumberjacks and ditch diggers gets that moved up.


Location: 6225 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

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1 Comment

  1. Seems a bit premature to me. If the Obama center falls through for whatever reason, the Park District still got money for park improvements from the foundation.

    I’m no fan of the mayor, but to compare this to Meigs is a bit much.

    But even that said, why was Meigs that big a problem? The result is great now. No, the ends don’t justify the means, but seriously, was closing an airport on the lakefront used almost exclusively by the rich a problem for the vast majority of Chicagoans? Nope.

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