After first announcing their intent to build the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side in 2015 following a national competition among other cities bidding for the project, President and Mrs. Obama joined Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot at an official groundbreaking ceremony to mark the long-awaited start of construction for the Center.
“The Obama Presidential Center will be the world’s premier institution for developing civic leaders across fields, across disciplines, and yes, across the political spectrum,” said President Obama. “A campus, right here on the South Side, where we’ll train the next generation of leaders not just in government and public service, but leaders who want to start businesses, and run nonprofits, and be socially conscious in an effective way.”
Situated on 19.3 acres of the 550 acre Jackson Park, the Center will put the South Side on a global stage, bringing visitors from around the world to the Center, but also to surrounding restaurants, shops and other cultural institutions to boost the local economy.
“While this center will be one of a presidential scale, its presence and purpose still speaks to the same community-centered vision that have always defined the Obamas’ work—and there’s no better home base than the community that took the family from the statehouse to the White House,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m particularly proud of our state contributions to these efforts—reshaping and enhancing trails and roadways throughout the neighborhood to ensure that the center is an accessible and enjoyable space for all.”
The Center is expected to generate $3.1B in economic activity, create thousands of jobs and serve as a catalyst that attracts other investment to the historically-underinvested community.
“The Obama Presidential Center presents an important opportunity to restore the social and economic vibrancy of our city’s South Side,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “That’s why I am beyond thrilled to help make history and break ground on this incredible project, which will create a ripple effect of inclusive, socioeconomic growth for residents in the surrounding community and our entire city. My team and I are grateful to the many government and community leaders for making this effort possible and look forward to continuing our work to uplift our historically underserved neighborhoods.”
Construction of the center is expected to conclude in 2025. Once completed it will include a presidential museum, a forum building with community space, a branch of the Chicago Public Library and an athletic center. The surrounding grounds will include a vegetable garden, reminiscent of Mrs. Obama’s vegetable garden at the White House, a sledding hill, playgrounds for children and open space for community events like farmers’ markets, family reunions and picnics.
At the ceremony, students from Chicago Public Schools introduced President and Mrs. Obama. Zell Wilson, a junior at Hyde Park Academy involved with Black Girls Code and Girls 4 Science, introduced Mrs. Obama. Trenton Banks, a junior at South Shore High School who plays basketball and also runs track, introduced President Obama.
The 1:15PM ceremony was broadcast live at www.obama.org for a virtual audience.