Furious Chicago Professors Demand Obama Move His Presidential Center Elsewhere

Former President Barack Obama and wife Michelle

Former President Barack Obama and wife Michelle

Another concern brought up in the letter was the fact that the Obama Center has broken from tradition, and will be a private enterprise rather than a traditional presidential library that is affiliated with the National Archives.

The Obamas hope that the center will be a new landmark and an economic engine for Chicago, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors, creating thousands of new jobs on the city's south side where they lived and worked for years.

The Obama Foundation has released statements defending its plans for the Presidential Center, in a week of heightened denunciation of the charity's intention to commandeer public park space for a construction plan that some expect will harm the local economy.

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Crews are expected to break ground on the project in late 2018, with the facility opening in 2021 on Chicago's South Side in the Jackson Park neighborhood, the release states.

Back in his community-organizing days, Barack Obama would have been the one fighting to save historic public parks from developers.

Obama stressed that public input has and will continue to be central to the design process. "I think the faculty of the university would be delighted to help them", said University of Chicago Professor Tom Mitchell. "We would be pleased to support the Obama Center if the plan genuinely promoted economic development in our neighborhoods and respected our precious public urban parks", the letter read.

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That decision also made the Center ineligible for millions in federal aid, and while the $500 million project will be covered by the private donations, local taxpayers will face an estimated $100 million bill to cover costs generated by road closures called for in the blueprint. The garage was initially slated to take up five acres on the historic Midway Plaisance, another part of the Chicago park system. A two-level athletic center includes basketball courts (for playing the president's favorite sport) alongside workout rooms and multipurpose space.

The Obama Foundation outlined the guiding principles behind the center's design in a statement Wednesday. This Center is for young people on the South Side and for young people all around the world - the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and build the world as it should be.

Member groups include the Black Youth Project 100, the Bronzeville Regional Collective and Southside Together Organizing for Power.

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