Contact Us

Jackson Park Will Be Home To Obama Presidential Library

Chicago Land

In news that took many by surprise yesterday, it was revealed that the Barack Obama Foundation is choosing historic Jackson Park as the site of the Obama Presidential Library.


The 543-acre Jackson Park was originally designed by legendary landscape architects Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in 1880, and it was the site of the 1890 World's Columbian Exposition. It's near Chicago's lakefront, making the Obama Library easily accessible via Lake Shore Drive and Metra rail. It will also likely form the foundation of a South Side Museum Campus along with the Museum of Science and Industry.

The site comes with a fair amount of controversy. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District, in order to sweeten the University of Chicago's bid with the Obama Foundation, approved a plan to donate 20 acres of parkland for the site the Obamas ultimately chose, if U of C won the bid. The move was opposed by greenspace advocates, including Friends of the Parks, which also opposed Emanuel's plan to give up lakefront land for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.


Jackson Park and Washington Park were the two sites in the University of Chicago's winning bid for the library, but U of C's real estate dealings around Washington Park lately led experts to conclude it would be the site for the library. U of C spent $18M over a six-year period to acquire 26 properties near Martin Luther King Drive and Garfield Boulevard. Those lots totaling 10 acres are near the Dan Ryan expressway, the Green Line "L" station and the Obamas' Kenwood home.

While residents near Washington Park are surely disappointed, Jackson Park holds much promise for future development in nearby Woodlawn and South Shore, which is already seeing much activity in the multifamily sector and from the efforts of artist Theaster Gates, who has bought several properties and transformed them into an arts district. The Jackson Park announcement may also lead to renewed interest in US Steel's South Works site, where McCaffery Interests has tried to launch an ambitious mixed-use development for years.