OPC Golf Course Updates-- plus a Crain's Op-Ed by our own Juanita Irizarry!
February 6, 2018
Dear friend of the parks,
As developments related to the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park continue to unfold quickly, we continue in lots of conversations with many of you and with the media.
In the midst of various efforts to frame the debate about real estate development in a park in similar racialized terms used around the Lucas Museum struggle, we continue to feel that it is necessary to counter those arguments-- even if Friends of the Parks is not necessarily the main target of such accusations this time around.
While we do believe that there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about how racism can play into public policy decisions in this city, state, and nation, including investments in our park, our interactions with the community make it extremely clear to us that people's opinions about the Obama Presidential Center's location and potential impacts on the parks and surrounding neighborhoods are extremely complex and varied and cannot be broken down along lines of race. Therefore, we share below FOTP Executive Director Juanita Irizarry's recent Op-Ed on this topic in Crain's Chicago Business.
In addition, after last Wednesday's unveiling of the latest plans for the Obama Presidential Center's Golf Course and Jackson Park, we have lots of Jackson Park/South Shore golf course updates below to keep you in the loop.
If you're feeling passionate about a particular side of the Obama Presidential Center's development, or recent news, we encourage you to write your own letter to the editor, keep your eye out for opportunities to contribute input directly to the Obama Foundation, and to show up to community meetings as they present themselves.
Catch up on the most recent developments below and as always, thank you for being a friend of the parks.
Crain's Chicago Op-Ed by Juanita Irizarry
Obama Presidential Center controversy about parks, not race
Juanita Irizarry I January 30, 2018
Just recently, a white man who is very involved with Jackson Park scolded me in response to an email to Friends of the Parks' supporters. We were celebrating the fact that the Chicago Park District filed a plan to replace the track and field that would be displaced by the Obama Presidential Center. He was mad that we claimed any part in that victory. He wanted all the credit.
Later that same day, an African-American woman who lives on the South Side gave it to me for celebrating any victory at all. She said that the only victory is keeping the OPC out of Jackson Park altogether.
Friends of the Parks has gladly accepted invitations to participate at a handful of tables over the last year or so, to provide perspective and consider strategy as local residents analyze the various Jackson Park "revitalization" issues. We've gathered with folks convened by the likes of the Rev. Byron Brazier and his Apostolic Church of God Jackson Park Stakeholders Group, the nonprofit leaders and community activists of the Obama Library CBA Coalition, the Save the Midway coalition of local residents, and Ald. Leslie Hairston's Jackson Park Golf and Community Leadership Advisory Council. And we've conferred with the white-led Jackson Park Watch activists, a group that arose out of disagreements with the white-led Jackson Park Advisory Council, which predates the Obama Foundation's announcement that it would locate in Jackson Park.
And we are participating in, and coordinating with others around, the Section 106/National Environmental Protection Act review that is taking place right now for Jackson Park, as we do all the time on projects that impact parks all over Chicago.
Plus, we have attended a number of invite-only meetings with the Obama Foundation alongside a diverse set of community stakeholders, park advocates and historic preservationists.
And people don't agree with each other. People who are white don't all agree with each other, and people who are black don't all agree with each other.
Meanwhile, of course, right-wing anti-Obama ugliness in the social media and fake news sphere is definitely spiking as those elements celebrate any bumps that Obama faces along the way to actualizing the OPC. That mess is awful and has no place in this conversation.
The conversation should be about whether parks-lakefront or not, historic or not-should be seen as prime parcels for real estate development in a city that is ranked No. 13 on the list of amount of parkland per 1,000 residents in high-density cities, according to the Trust for Public Land's 2017 City Parks Facts. We are the third-largest city by population. We should be at least No. 3 on the list. We don't have enough parkland as it is.
And the conversation should be about who's going to pay for all the road closures. But that's a story for another day.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again. All of the benefits of recently proposed museums on parkland in Chicago are possible without building them in parks. Since the beginning, and as recently as this month, Friends of the Parks has repeatedly encouraged the Obama Foundation to utilize vacant land across the street from Washington Park. We, andmany others who oppose real estate development in parks,would love to see community-benefiting economic development and Obama's legacy honored on Chicago's South Side, where he got his start. Just not in a park.
Let's not again stoop to the racialized tactics. When that's what is really happening, it's appropriate to call it out. But that's not what this is.
In this city in which false dichotomies are often promoted by leadership in an effort to gain support for a particular public policy outcome, and, as we're reeling from the impact of such leadership in Washington, D.C., wouldn't it be nice if our hometown former president would call for a different kind of discourse? We at Friends of the Parks choose to believe that's who Obama is.
At a recent invite-only meeting held by the Obama Foundation to discuss the parking garage, a supporter of the OPC identified himself in affiliation with the nonprofit group he represents and suggested that those who ask any questions at all about pretty much any element of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park must be white and must not care about black people.
That comment broke the Obama Foundation's own stated rules around civic engagement.
This needs to stop.
Maybe Obama can be the change.
Juanita Irizarry is executive director of Friends of the Parks.
Chicago Defender:Obama Presidential Center: Transforming A Park, Bringing Together A Global Village
Mary L. Datcher I February 5, 2018
"Overtheseveral decadessince the Exposition, Jackson Park hasretained its beautyfrom the man-made lagoons and hidden gems,andthe community that surrounds the lushlandscape hasattracted fourgenerations of African Americanfamilieslaying roots in the once-affluentWhite neighborhood.
PresidentBarack Obama and Michelle Obama's decision to choose the city's parkland for the site oftheObamaPresidential Center(OPC)has not only brought a fresh energy to the SouthSide but it has reshaped how neighbors will be forced to acceptthatchange is growth.
There have beenseveral public community meetings and open forumsfor neighbors to share their input on thedevelopment of the OPC,andone of the main concerns from the business community was having a fair process for African-American owned construction firms."
Community meetings, conversations, & letters to the editor
As we are out and about in the community with the many of you who are voicing your opinions in various ways about proposed Obama Presidential Center-related changes to Jackson Park, South Shore park, and Midway Plaisance, it is clear to us that the opinions are many and varied. What we know for sure is that the opinions are not neatly divided between African-Americans and whites, even though one recent newspaper commentary suggested that white people only care about butterflies.
We appreciate all of you who reach out to Friends of the Parks or speak to us when we see you in the community. We are taking in all of your feedback, dissecting the issues from many directions, and talking to the Chicago Park District and the Obama Foundation about our concerns about process and product--always reminding them of our position that the OPC should not be on parkland at all but rather on vacant land adjacent to Washington Park!
Here are a few voices from the neighborhood, with varying perspectives--that don't fit neatly into the white vs. black rhetoric--on the OPC process and product.
For more community conversation, the Hyde Park Herald has a round up of letters to the editor on the subject of the Obama Presidential Center.Click here for letters to the editor, and consider attending a meeting like those pictured above, or writing into a local paper yourself.
Additionally, make sure to click here to listen to this podcast episode released by the Chicago Maroon. With FOTP's Juanita Irizarry on its panel, the episode features a conversation with distinct and varying view points about the CBA (Community Benefits Agreement) Coalition, of which we are a part.
Chicago Tribune: Editorial: Will these Jackson Park mega-projects clash or connect with South Siders?Tribune
Editorial Board I February 5, 2018
"Backers of both Jackson Park projects still can do a better job laying out the economic benefit that the projects will yield for surrounding South Side neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of disinvestment. And each project comes with a hefty hit to taxpayers, who will have to fund infrastructure improvements.
In the case of the presidential center, that includes widening stretches of Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue. The golf course would require construction of three pedestrian underpasses. Cost to taxpayers: $30 million, the same amount needed to build the course, which would be paid for largely by private investment.
We realize projects of such scale require big infrastructure spending. But we also expect City Hall to be crystal-clear about the use of taxpayer money for these projects: So far, that hasn't been happening - the city has yet to lay out a cost breakdown for infrastructure improvements associated with the presidential center. As with all projects of this magnitude, City Hall will have to assure citizens that the benefits to Chicago justify the expenses.
Neither project is near final approval. But getting there will be easier if both the Obama and golf course teams - and the city - continue to connect with the communities around Jackson Park and throughout the South Side - communities that haven't been listened to for a long time."
Chicago Tribune:Revised Tiger Woods golf course design for south lakefront: Practice rounds still needed
Blair Kamin I February 3, 2018
"Who would pay for the new infrastructure? Taxpayers, in all likelihood. Which is not to say that the underpasses aren't needed. Improving lakefront access on the South Side long has been on the city's policy agenda. And the proposed underpass at 67th, in the same price range as the striking, 2-year-old pedestrian bridge that crosses Lake Shore Drive at 35th Street, doesn't seem outrageously expensive. Still, unless a donor wants to write a check, federal, state or local taxpayers are going to foot the bill.
Of equal concern is the course's impact on the South Shore Nature Sanctuary...While about 3.5 acres of the sanctuary, chiefly dunes and wetlands, would remain in place under the Woods course's plan, according to district officials, the proposal still calls for placing two golf holes on the edges of the sanctuary. One would occupy a little peninsula that sticks into Lake Michigan like an outstretched pinkie."
Chicago Crain's Business:Here's the latest on Tiger Woods-designed Jackson Park golf course!
Lisa Bertagnoli I February 2, 2018
"The latest plans for a Tiger Woods-designed golf course in Jackson Park near the planned Obama Presidential Center call for increased pedestrian access throughout the course and surrounding areas, including the South Shore Cultural Center; a golf pavilion, with a snack bar, moved to the center of the course from the northwest corner; and added "natural areas" across the course. The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance unveiled the revised plans for a proposed combined Jackson Park golf course Jan. 31 to about 250 people attending a community meeting at South Shore Cultural Center."
Chicago Tribune:What's the latest on Tiger Woods course at Jackson Park?
Teddy Greenstein I February 1, 2018
"Wednesday marked the 10th opportunity for residents to offer input. Some have voiced concerns about the effect on a nature sanctuary at South Shore. Kelly said that part of the area would be moved south and actually increase in size."
Chicago Sun-Times: Letters to the Editor: Hastily called meetings on S. Side golf course are afarce
Eric Allix Rogers I February 1, 2018
"At the last public meetings about the South Lakefront Framework Plan, golf was omitted from all alternatives. We were assured of future golf-focused meetings. Suddenly, after months of silence, a golf meeting was announced for Jan. 31 - with less than a week's warning!
Surely the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance got more notice. But the rest of us got just a week to try to rearrange our lives to be there for what may be the last chance to object before golf course expansion is written into the new framework plan."
Chicago Park District pushing ahead on controversial golfcourse
Rachel Hinton I February 1, 2018
"Despite the updates, community concerns, largely related to the nature sanctuary, funding and saving trees, persisted.
"We're concerned about how the decision was made," said Anne Holcomb, chair of the community group E.T.H.O.S, which focuses on the environment and transportation among other things. "Before cooking up this golf course idea, they should've done more to ask what the community wanted in a park. Even people who are pro-golf course want to know what will happen with the sanctuary."
AsBeau Welling, senior design consultant for TGR, Tiger Wood's golf course design firm, listens, Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly speaks about the latest proposal for the 18-hole redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses
"Michael Kelly, Chicago Park District CEO and Superintendent, ahead of Wednesday's meeting estimated the price point for the underpasses and said it could cost as much as $30 million for related infrastructure updates bringing the total for golf course renovations to $60 million."
WTTW Chicago Tonight:Jackson Park Community Tees Off on Tiger Woods Golf Course
Paris Schultz I January 31, 2018
"The plans thus far have been met with skepticism - to say the least - from local community groups concerned about a number of things, chiefly: will the city build a gleaming new facility at which nobody in the neighborhood can afford to play? It's one of the reasons that several community groups have asked that the Park District and the non-profit Chicago Golf Alliance slow the project down.
"There are local golfers who feel like you can always improve things, but aren't happy with the idea of this newer, fancier golf course which might just price them out of the game," said Margaret Schmid of Jackson Park Watch, a group that has been tough on both the golf course and the nearby proposed Obama Presidential Center."