Today’s the Unofficial Start of Construction on the Obama Center

It’s been a long time since a ribbon cutting actually marked the start of work on a large construction project. We’ve seen everything from surveying to site prep to foundations to buildings reaching their third floors before all of the bankers, lawyers, and dreamers could be assembled for the all-important grip ‘n’ grin photo that will be put in one corporate newsletter and then forgotten forever.

October 219 rendering of the Obama Presidential Center (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)
October 219 rendering of the Obama Presidential Center (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

Such is the case in East Hyde Park, where work starts today to reconfigure the roads surrounding what will eventually be the Obama Presidential Center, which we’re never supposed to refer to as The Obama Presidential Library, because it’s not a presidential library. It’s a center. And we certainly wouldn’t ever write “Obama Presidential Library” just to bring in clicks from the people still using Google to search the internet.

You’ll notice the change most acutely today if you use Cornell Drive, but according to CDOT, here’s a list of what to expect in the short term:

  • South Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive, which runs eastbound, will be permanently closed and included in the footprint of the OPC.
  • Eastbound traffic on South Midway Plaisance heading to northbound DuSable Lake Shore Drive will be temporarily routed north on Stony Island and then east at 57th Street.
  • Eastbound Midway Plaisance traffic looking to go southbound will be directed to southbound Stony Island.

These are just a few of the changes to Jackson Park that got green and civic groups’ undies in a bundle and paved the road to a dead end in federal court. Traveling that road has put the O-Center so far behind schedule that it was already supposed to be completed by now.

While this isn’t the start of construction on any buildings, you can think of it as work being done on the Center’s driveway. And if you’re eager for an official groundbreaking. That’s not expected until September.

Diagram of the Obama Presidential Center
Diagram of the Obama Presidential Center

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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