Obama's Presidential Center Raises Displacement Concerns

As the former president seeks to distinguish the Obama Presidential Center from for-profit development, many locals still want to see a binding community benefits agreement.

1 minute read

October 13, 2017, 11:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Jackson Park

Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side | Jonah Anderson / Shutterstock

Slated to open in 2021, the Obama Presidential Center may exert a positive economic impact measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But as Natalie Y. Moore reports, not everyone is elated. "But amid the celebrations about hosting a center devoted to America's first black president, there's also consternation about what the complex will mean, not only for Jackson Park but for the surrounding neighborhoods."

Concerned about a wave of gentrification, speculation, and displacement, "residents are pushing the Obama Foundation and other local partners to commit to a community benefits agreement (CBA), a binding document designed to protect affordable housing and ensure equitable economic development."

Obama, meanwhile, has held out. Drawing the distinction between his nonprofit enterprise and for-profit development, Obama also raised concerns about inclusion under a CBA. "What particular organizations would end up speaking for everybody in that community? People will come out of the woodwork to be gatekeepers."

The debate continues. Pete Saunders responds to Moore's piece by asking whether the feared displacement would actually occur. Aside from racially diverse Hyde Park, the area is predominantly black. Saunders writes, "There's been enough stimulus already in Hyde Park to compel people to move into Woodlawn and South Shore. But it hasn't happened. Chicago's segregation patterns are too entrenched."

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