Obama Library Ignites Controversy

President Obama’s presidential center will be built on the South Side of Chicago, Obama’s adopted hometown.

Many supporters cheered that decision, hoping it would bring development to an area of the city that really needs it.

But the process of designing and building the center has not been without controversy — far from it. And it has sparked conversations in Chicago that echo debates we often have here in Detroit about big development projects. Conversations about which neighborhoods need this kind of development the most. Conversations about gentrification and displacement. Conversations about how to engage community members in these conversations, and whether they’re being shut out of the process.

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, has been following the issue closely in recent months and has written a number of articles about the development. He joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about it.

Community activists have urged Obama to sign a so-called community benefits agreement, which would guarantee long-term well-paid jobs to local residents,” says Kamin. “And Obama, the former community organizer, said no.”

There are disputes here about design, about construction, and, hey, it’s Chicago — nothing here ever happens smoothly.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: The Obama Foundation

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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