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City Council passes ordinances for Obama Presidential Center

CHICAGO -- Chicago's City Council set the terms and conditions for the public park that will be the future home of the Obama Presidential Center.

The $500 million project is closer to a groundbreaking in 2019.

The City Council passed a package of ordinances that establish the Obama Foundation's right to occupy, use and maintain approximately 19.3 acres of land in Jackson Park.

Friends of the Parks is among those who are against this project.

There's also a coalition of South Side residents who are concerned about being pushed out if rents jump up too high when the center is built and property values go up.

Critics argue the ordinance, designed to protect residents from higher rents and displacement, falls short.

"Since the year 2000, over 250,000 families have been pushed out of Chicago," said resident Patricia Hightower. "I refuse to be one of them."

"While we welcome it to Chicago and particularly the South Side with which the Obamas have such deep connections, we have consistently called for it to be located on the 11 acres of vacant land across the street from Washington Park," said Friends of the Parks, in a statement. "We have long said that if it must be in a park, we will advocate for a “park positive” outcome, which includes the replacement of all green space taken up by the OPC and the recreational amenities that are displaced."

“Thank you to Mayor Emanuel, to the City Council, especially Leslie Hairston, who worked so hard on this, and everyone in the City of Chicago who supported the Presidential Center from the start,” said President Obama in a video shared after the vote. “Michelle and I could not be prouder or more excited to bring the Center to the South Side, a community that has given us both so much.”

“Today’s vote advances our vision of an Obama Presidential Center and Museum that is a world-class amenity on the South Side of Chicago, an investment in our neighbors and this entire City, and an opportunity to revitalize Jackson Park,” added Obama Foundation CEO David Simas.

The Obama Foundation says the Center is also undergoing a federal review process under the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act given Jackson Park’s historic designation, as well as under the Federal-Aid Highway Act given the road improvement work.