Chicago officials are moving forward with plans to turn the city’s historic Jackson Park into an ode to Obama, though the planned Obama Presidential Library is far from a done deal.
U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey said at a hearing Wednesday that he will set a trial date to consider the project’s alleged violations of state laws and city codes at a case management conference in December, Curbed Chicago reports.
The nonprofit Protect Our Parks, along with three individual residents, filed a lawsuit in May to block the project because they claim it’s against the law to transfer park lands to private entities like the Obama Foundation, which is expected to run the sprawling facility.
Attorneys with the city argue the project doesn’t violate the law and plan to file a motion to dismiss the case after the City Council votes to approve a special ordinance on Oct. 31, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“That would be the appropriate time to file a dispositive motion,” city attorney Andrew Worseck said.
Blakey acknowledged that the discovery phase of the case could take months, but made it clear he’s intent of a quick resolution. Construction on the new Obama center is expected to begin next year.
“Lingering’s not going to happen,” the judge said, according to the Tribune.
The Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago, its partner in the project, have already released some items requested through discovery, including competing proposals for alternative sites and designs.
In addition to the lawsuit, plans for the Obama center are also under review by the federal government because Jackson Park is listed on the National Register of historic places.
According to Curbed Chicago:
The Federal Highway Administration will lead an effort to review the plan under two laws. The first, The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, calls for the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to issue a determination as to whether legitimate efforts are being made to minimize adverse effects on the historic park. Meanwhile, the National Environmental Policy Act dictates the requirement of an environmental impact study that will consider factors such as air quality.
The proposed Obama center is a vast 20-acre, multi-building facility that would feature a museum, Chicago Public Library branch, neighborhood garden, recording studio, athletic facilities, sledding hill, women’s garden, children’s play garden, and other attractions.
The plans would displace an existing track and field, as well as numerous historic trees, the news site reports. And unlike other presidential libraries, the Obama center will not be run by the National Archives and Records Administration, won’t actually house any of Obama’s documents (digital copies available), and will “include an Institute that will enhance the pursuit of the President’s initiatives beyond 2017, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Obama Foundation secured rent from the city of Chicago for $1, and expects taxpayers to contribute at least $174 million toward the roughly half-billion dollar project, despite claims from the former president that the project would be privately funded, according to the site.