Speaking out about being priced out of their old communities as a result of President Barack Obama’s presidential library are South Chicago residents.
Since construction on the Obama Presidential Center began in 2021, the neighborhood’s median home price has increased by double, rents have skyrocketed, and residents’ complaints that the president’s memorial is not being constructed with their best interests in mind have grown.
One veteran South Chicago resident told the Washington Post, “The Obama Center is not being built for Chicago. It’s being built for the world. And the people of the world don’t want us here. So what do you think is going to happen?” Long-time neighborhood activist further stated that locals don’t want “Obama’s legacy marred by the displacement of thousands of Black families.”
Housing groups have fought against the $500 million project from the beginning, demanding that the city need affordable housing in the area. In a discussion held last month, those calls were made to Brandon Johnson, one of the Democratic contenders vying to succeed Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
At the center’s groundbreaking, President Obama remarked about his desire to support the neighborhood by constructing the library:
“It feels natural for Michelle and me to want to give back to Chicago and to the South Side in particular. The Obama Presidential Center is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city has given us.”
By interacting with activists, the Obama Foundation has tried to put an end to demonstrations. In addition to an indirect $16.5 million in state and local tax income, the president’s team forecasts that the center will contribute $3.1 billion in economic development to the area over the course of the next ten years.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Fair Housing identified Chicago’s south side as having the highest number of eviction filings in 2019. Developers now have attractive opportunities to flip homes and sell to wealthier buyers thanks to higher vacancy rates.