University Professors Sign Letter in Support of Obama Center Benefits Agreement

The Obama Presidential Center design as seen from the south side of the campus

Back in his community-organizing days, Barack Obama would have been the one fighting to save historic public parks from developers.

Here's the most important thing: Michelle and I want this Center to be more than a building or a museum. "That location, which President Obama rejected, would have been an unambiguous boon to the community and to Chicago".

In a letter signed by scores of faculty members, the professors argue that while they broadly "support the idea of establishing the Obama Center in our neighborhood", they also share many concerns expressed by local community groups about the existing proposal.

"We urge the Obama Foundation to explore alternative sites on the South Side that could be developed with more economic benefits, better public transportation, and less cost to taxpayers", the professors wrote.

The letter closes with a blistering criticism of the project's estimated cost, which the professors argue will easily exceed $100 million and fall exclusively on the shoulders of the taxpayer. However, it questions the decision to locate the center in Jackson Park. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel served as Obama's first chief of staff in the White House.

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The Obama Foundation is submitting its plan this week to various city departments. The garage was initially slated to take up five acres on the historic Midway Plaisance, another part of the Chicago park system.

The Foundation wrote it will "of course" have a museum and library, though it did not address the faculty's specific complaint that the Center will be unaffiliated with the National Archives, as official presidential libraries generally are.

In an email Wednesday morning from the Obama Foundation and signed by "Barack", the former president continued to make his case for the campus, despite continued criticism by locals, including almost 200 faculty at the University of Chicago- which is adjacent to the anticipated site of the Center-who panned the plans as "socially regressive" in an open letter. "Not just listening for show, but actively incorporating what we've learned into the plans". This Center is for young people on the South Side and for young people all around the world - the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and build the world as it should be.

Despite such claims, a coalition of eight community groups on the South Side is demanding the Obama Foundation sign an agreement guaranteeing neighborhood involvement in the development and maintenance of the Obama Center.

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