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While the Obama Presidential Library promises to benefit the community, groups call for a written agreement

4/12/2017, noon | Updated on 4/12/2017, noon
A local community coalition is calling for a community benefits agreement for the Obama Presidential Library. The Obama Library Community ...
Eugene Taylor has been golfing since 1973. Taylor says he can’t believe that he is still alive to witness the beginning stages of the first Black presidential library on the south side of Chicago in Jackson Park. Photo by Christopher Shuttlesworth

While the Obama Presidential Library promises to benefit the community, groups call for a written agreement

By Christopher Shuttlesworth

A local community coalition is calling for a community benefits agreement for the Obama Presidential Library. The Obama Library Community Benefits Agreement Coalition said they feel a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is necessary due to Black residents being displaced by changes in communities such as the transformation plan of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the fall out of school closings, according to an Obama Library Community Benefits Agreement Coalition press release.

Attorney Allegra Cira Fischer of The Law Project, who’s working on behalf of the coalition to create an agreement said,attorneys view the CBA as a binding agreement between the developer and community members within the neighborhood.

Dominic Surya, who is an organizer of the Obama Library Community Benefits Agreement Coalition added, “We want to make sure that during the CBA meetings, we’re not affirming language about community benefits, but bringing community benefits to the Southside of Chicago and to the people who made former President Barack Obama who he is.”

Jawanza Brian Malone, a community leader who favors the agreement and who is also the Executive Director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, said every business in the world is bound by a contract and believes that this should be no di•erent.

Malone added, “Communities around the world have been able to hold developers accountable to the communities where they seek to build. For us, this isn’t about whether we trust the first Black president to do the right thing. This is simply about business.”

“President and Mrs. Obama chose to develop the Obama Presidential Center in the heart of Chicago’s South Side because it is the neighborhood they call home and the place they believed they could have the most impact,” The Barack Obama Foundation Vice President of Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis said.

“The Obama Presidential Center will strengthen the economic climate in our community by bringing thousands of visitors to the South Side every year, creating new jobs, and revitalizing historic Jackson Park, he said, adding, “the foundation maintains the position that a community benefit agreement is not the tool that will have the most lasting economic impact on the South Side,” Strautmanis said.

“The Foundation is encouraged by the energy and ideas that have come from hundreds of meetings with community organizations and residents, including those who are creating an economic development strategy that will engage the creativity, entrepreneurship, and work ethic that exists in the neighborhoods around the site of the Obama Presidential Center. We appreciate the e•orts of everyone who is working hard to ensure the OPC becomes a catalyst for additional growth, and encourage everyone with an idea, expertise to o•er, or additional resources to share to join the e•ort,” Strautmanis stated.

The Obama library is estimated to cost $600 million and could potentially create 1,900 permanent jobs and help build thirty restaurants, eleven stores, and even a hotel, according to UChicagogate.com.

“The permanent Obama Presidential Library will be constructed on Chicago’s South Side in Jackson Park. The Barack Obama Presidential Library will be the 14th presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a federal agency.

The Barack Obama Foundation has selected Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA) as the design team, with partners Interactive Design 3rd (IDEA),” according to obamalibrary.gov.