Obama library's public cost estimated at $175M: report

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(Left) Daniel Borman / Flickr (Right) The Obama Presidential Center design, as seen from the south side of the campus. (Obama.org)

CHICAGO (FoxNews.com) - The planned Obama Presidential Center in Chicago is being privately funded, but on Friday city officials estimated how much taxpayers will pay for roadwork and other construction around the center: $175 million.

It was the first time city officials put a specific dollar figure on the expected cost to the public, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“These proposed investments are intended to make the (center) and surrounding Jackson Park a world-class destination on par with Chicago’s Museum Campus,” the city’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) told the newspaper, in a statement accompanying the figures.

The planned taxpayer-funded work would include widening portions of some surrounding streets and constructing four or five new underpasses, the report said.

City officials said they intended to pursue “all potential options” for the project, including allocations from the state of Illinois.

The information was made public ahead of a scheduled meeting Tuesday, at which representatives from the Obama Foundation, a nonprofit leading the center’s construction, is expected to detail its plans, the report said.

CDOT spokesman Michael Claffey told the Tribune that presidential libraries often get state financing for nearby infrastructure. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., received $100 million in such funding, he said.

However, in January, more than 100 University of Chicago professors and faculty members signed a letter saying that they and a wide range of neighborhood and activist groups agreed that “the Obama Center as currently planned will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhoods” on the South Side of Chicago.

They noted that because the center will be located near an existing museum and the University of Chicago, there will be no land to start new businesses or restaurants nearby. 

The Tribune reported Thursday that the project was revealing race and class differences between its supporters and opponents, with one African-American woman telling the paper she has bene accused of being anti-black.

“All I wanted to do was make sure my kids could play with no garage in their park,” Bronwyn Nichols Lodato told the paper. “I have three young children and we live in a condo and the Midway is our yard. My story is simply, how can we keep the park so our kids could play there?”

In January, the former president said in a video statement that he has been "pretty hands-on" with the project and hoped it could help revitalize the neighborhood.

“Michelle and I want this center to be more than just a building,” Obama said. “We want to create an economic engine for the South Side of Chicago, a cultural attraction that showcases the South Side to the rest of the world.”

The center is scheduled to open in 2021.

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