Former President Barack Obama has finally broken ground on his massive Presidential Center in Chicago.
The groundbreaking took place on Tuesday near Jackson Park in Chicago, with the former president and former first lady Michelle Obama in attendance. During the ceremony for the forthcoming center, Obama stated that he believes the project will inspire future leaders and put his “ideas about democracy and activism and social change to the test.”
Since expressing his interest in placing the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side, activists have spoken out against it. Many believe that the building will increase the prices of homes and rent in the neighborhood. Protesters showed up during the event to express their concerns about the center’s impact on local residents.
“Our renters need protections. You shouldn’t be able to buy a building in South Shore and not tell folks that you’re trying to get it. Not renew folks’ lease and try and push them out despite the fact that they’re long-term residents that have been paying,” one protester stated.
Environmentalists have also slammed the project, insisting that it will destroy too many trees and disrupt bird habitats. However, the former commander-in-chief has assured the community that the center will replace the trees and provide wildlife habitats.
The Obamas are confident that this center will create new opportunities for the community by including a museum, gardens, playground, and library. The Obama Foundation said that the development would “breathe new life” into the park and uphold the country’s former leader’s commitment to the city.
“We want the Obama Presidential Center to change Chicago for the better. This center will support thousands of jobs during and after construction, many of them right here on the South Side,” Obama said during the ceremony. “It will help spark economic growth in this community by bringing as many as 750,000 visitors to this area every single year, visitors who will eat, shop, explore and spend money, strengthening the South Side and making it an even more attractive place for businesses to grow and to hire.”
The project is expected to open to the public within five years and cost approximately $500 million.