May 3, 2017

Obama unveils plans for Presidential Center

The plans for the Obama Presidential Center and Library, unveiled Wednesday by Barack and Michelle Obama, recommend shutting down Cornell Drive on Chicago's South Side. The library is set to open in 2021 and expected to cost $500 million to build.

Why it matters: Cornell connects thousands of drivers each day to Lake Shore Drive, Stony Island Boulevard, and the Chicago Skyway, and connects South Siders to downtown Chicago and the Indiana Toll Road. The plan is likely to meet resistance from the Obamas' former neighbors on the South Side.

The motivation to close Cornell: While speaking at the South Shore Cultural Center, Obama said the closure would make Jackson Park, where the OPC will be located, vibrant like Millennium Park and Lincoln Park. It's also about safety:

"Right now you got a 6-lane road cutting right through the middle of the park. The truth is if you have that road, there's only so much you can do. You can't have little kids playing right next to a road. You can't have sledding into the road. You can't walk to the lagoon. You can't go from Stony over to the lagoon. Because there's no place to cross the street."

About additional traffic: He said his team did traffic studies, consulted with both the Illinois and the city departments of transportation. "We are now confident that we will not be adding to commute times as a consequence of Cornell" closing. "It will require modest mitigation efforts." Obama said there should be efforts to reroute traffic through Stony and 59th Street.

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