Chicago nonprofit sues to block Obama Presidential Center

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A Chicago nonprofit has reportedly filed a lawsuit to block the building of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, located in the city’s South Side neighborhood. 

The Chicago Tribune reports Protect Our Parks Inc. filed the suit in U.S. District Court on Monday, alleging that Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago lack the power to move government-owned parkland to a nongovernmental organization, in this case the Obama Foundation.

The lawsuit reportedly uses three Chicago residents as plaintiffs in the case and alleges that the move illustrates “a short con shell game, a corrupt scheme to deceive and seemingly legitimize an illegal land grab.”

{mosads}“The City and Park District clearly realize and fully understand that this established law precludes the Park District from arbitrarily transferring possession, use and control of this dedicated ‘open, clear and free’ public parkland in Jackson Park to a private nongovernmental … entity’s self-determined use,” the complaint said, according to the Tribune. The nonprofit also said the organizers of the center pulled an “institutional bait and switch” by keeping the purpose of the center from being a “true presidential library.”

The Obama library would house archives from his presidency under the watch of the National Archives and Records Administration. But it would also include a community forum center, an outdoor plaza and a community athletic center.

The city hit back against the suit in a statement on Monday.  

“The Obama Presidential Center is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest hundreds of millions of dollars that will create good jobs on the South Side, bring our communities together and honor the legacy of Chicago’s favorite son and daughter. While some choose to stand in the way of progress for the South Side, we are focused on making progress in every community in Chicago,” the statement reads. 

The Obama Foundation submitted its development plans and applications for the former president’s library earlier this year. 

Crews are expected to break ground on the center later this year. 

The center is expected to open in 2021. 

Chicago’s Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, was President Obama’s first White House chief of staff and is running for reelection in 2019.

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