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Obama's presidential center may set modern record for length of delay
Former President Obama's presidential center, which was initially scheduled to open this year prior to a series of construction delays and legal battles, is on track to set a modern record for the length of time between a presidency and the completion of a presidential library.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that if construction on the center follows current estimates by beginning in September and taking no more than four years to complete, there will be more than 3,100 days between Obama leaving office and the opening of the project.
The longest previous periods occurred following the administrations of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, whose libraries each took an average of 1,653 days to complete, according to the Journal.
Comparatively, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library opened just over 1,000 days after Reagan left the Oval Office, and Bill Clinton's library took 1,398 days to complete.
Obama's planned center, which is expected to include a museum, Obama Foundation offices, a public library and recreational space, has prompted a wave of legal challenges and federal reviews.
The approximately $700 million campus is set to be constructed in Jackson Park in Chicago's South Side, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the most prominent legal challenges to the center was from the nonprofit Protect Our Parks and other groups who have demanded that government agencies should have considered relocating the Obama center to a different area where there will be less traffic disruptions and environmental damage.
Protect Our Parks had sued the city of Chicago over the approval of the center's construction on public land, though an appellate court in August 2020 ruled that the group lacked standing to file a lawsuit against the city.
The U.S. Supreme Court in April of this year denied a petition to hear the case.
The Obama Foundation has argued that the center will provide substantial benefits to the community, including generating around 5,000 direct and indirect jobs in surrounding Cook County during the construction and startup of the facility, and roughly 2,500 in the long term.
Officials have also responded to community demands by pledging to devote 35 percent of construction jobs to residents of Chicago's South and West sides, as well as funding for job training, according to the Journal.
Valerie Jarrett, president of the Obama Foundation and a former senior White House adviser, told the Journal, "Because it isn't in a green-grass site or on a huge university campus, the level of community engagement was much more intense, as it should be."
"The design of the campus is better today with the benefit of community input, so the time was well spent," she added.
In response to the construction delays, an Obama Foundation spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill, "The Obama Presidential Center represents a historic opportunity for Chicago: a chance to build a world-class museum and public gathering space that celebrates our nation's first African American President and First Lady."
"Not only will the Center generate billions of dollars of economic opportunity and help revitalize Jackson Park, it will also serve as a reminder to young visitors - from around the city and around the world - that their potential is limitless," the spokesperson explained, adding that the facility's multiple planned features mark "a first of its kind for a presidential center."