CHICAGO - After years of planning, reviews and even protests, construction work officially began Monday on the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago's South Side.
As the big machinery starts to transform Jackson Park, some involved see their prayers answered.
"By God’s grace we get to be a part of this," said Robert McGee Jr., President of II in One Contractors.
McGee believes the building of the Obama Presidential Center is the start of a new chapter on the South Side.
The Obama Foundation says more than 50 percent of the construction contracts have gone to minority owned firms. Plus, the goal is to have 35 percent of workforce hours come from underserved communities, with many getting crucial training for construction careers.
"For a lot of people who’ve been left out and marginalized, this is a huge step up," McGee said.
The building of the Center is a large project that covers nearly 20 acres of the 550-acre Jackson Park.
Stephanie Hickman is the president of Trice Construction.
"Historically, companies like Trice have not had access to projects of this scale. This is a huge project with just the concrete alone is a significant piece of it," she said.
The work is just beginning and drivers will notice lane and road closures near the site. In four or five years, the Presidential Center will rise.
"This is something that I'll be able to point to if I ever have grandchildren one day and say, ‘we were part of this,’" Hickman said.
By the time the project is completed, thousands will have left their mark on the transformation of Jackson Park.
The Obama Foundation, which announced preliminary work in April, said a formal groundbreaking ceremony would take place in the fall.