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The first three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued

Published on Jul. 21, 2021 by Steven Vance

Updated on Jul. 22, 2021

The 1st three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued

The Obama Presidential Center got its first building permits this week for construction within Jackson Park. Three building permits cover installing caissons (part of foundation work) and tree removal and site clearing for the “forum”, a Chicago Public Library branch, and a partially submerged parking garage. This post briefly covers where those future structures are and what they look like.

Start by reviewing the site plan below, which is dated October 2019 and I believe the most recent version. You can interact with this story on Twitter.

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The Forum

The Forum building is the two-story building shown on the right in the image below, and is southeast of the 219-feet tall museum on the left. The permitted address is 6011 S Stony Island Ave. It will be 22 feet tall.

The Obama Presidential Center website describes the Forum “a commons designed to bring people together” to contain a broadcast and recording studio, auditorium, meeting spaces, and a restaurant. The Forum’s roof overhangs the plaza by 17 feet, providing a good amount of area under shade and protected from precipitation.

A rendering of the Forum and plaza. The base of the museum is shown on the left. All images are attributed to Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.
This rendering is from the view atop the Chicago Public Library branch; the Forum is on the right, the the museum tower is in the background, and the plaza is in the foreground. The view is looking north, and Stony Island Ave is on the left.

The library

The Obama Presidential Center is not a presidential library, since it doesn’t meet the standards of such set forth by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). There is an Obama Presidential Library, though, and it exists in archives and online (read how that works).

But there will be a library, a branch of the Chicago Public Library. A unique aspect of this library is the rooftop space (briefly depicted in the image above), and a rooftop garden “similar to the garden that Mrs. Obama planted at the White House”. An elevator will provide direct roof access.

The permitted address for the new CPL branch is 6021 S Stony Island Ave; the building will be 36 feet tall.

The parking garage

The third permit that was issued is for a partially below-grade parking garage. The roof of the garage will blend with the library’s roof, and a park. Think of Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park, both of which are built atop parking garages.

The parking structure’s permitted address is 6101 S Stony Island Ave. By footprint, the parking garage will be the largest structure in the OPC and have a maximum of 450 car parking spaces. (Comparatively, the PD 1409 document states that the site will have 50 bicycle parking spaces, which seems insufficient.)

Not yet permitted

  • The museum tower is the first main building (letter “B” on the site plan)
  • The Program, Athletic, and Activity Center is the fourth main building, and will have a gymnasium with a basketball court (letter “N” on the site plan, across from a relocated track and field)
  • The open space areas (including a “Great Lawn”), other landscaping, and promenades and park paths

The first three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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