CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) – After five years of legal battles and community pushback, former President Barack Obama and family joined several Illinois leaders on Tuesday to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center.
Obama called the project a small way to give back to the South Side neighborhood where he met his wife, raised their kids and launched his political career.
The center will include a museum and a new branch of the Chicago Public Library, as well as a public plaza and recreation center.
The former president wants the space to become a hub for activism and social change.
“My experience in Chicago made me believe in the power of place and the power of people. Those beliefs guided me all the way through my presidency, and they have shaped our vision for the Obama Presidential Center,” Obama said. “A campus right here on the south side, where we hope to convene, support, and empower the next generation of leaders.”
The project will take about take about four years to complete. When it is done, the Obama Foundation expects close to 700,000 visitors a year.
Some Chicagoans, however, are worried that the new center could push them out of their homes.
Housing advocates said that the city needs to do more to protect affordable housing in nearby communities. They fear that the new development will make spiking real estate prices worse, and will speed up the gentrification of the neighborhood.
“You can cut the ribbon but don’t cut us out! This is our community, we should be able to stay,” said South Shore resident Dixon Romeo.
While the city has promised protections in Woodlawn, critics said that the city has not lived up to expectations so far.