First building permits issued for Obama Center construction

site plan obama center

Chicago has issued the first three building permits for the new Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

Chicago Cityscape first reported on these permits, each valued at $5 million. They cover installing caissons (part of foundation work) and tree removal and site clearing for the “Forum”, a Chicago Public Library branch, and a partially submerged parking garage.

The images here relate to the October 2019 site plan, which Cityscape publisher Steven Vance are believed to be the most recent versions. Chicago Construction News has supplemented Cityscape’s reporting with our own research into the building permit filings.

The three permits are each valued at $5 million and list Turner Construction Company as the general contractor and O’Neil Industries, Inc. as the masonry contractor.

“The Forum building is the two-story building shown on the right in the image below, and is southeast of the 219-feet tall museum on the left,” Chicago Cityscape writes. The permitted address for the 22-ft. tall structure is 6011 S. Stony Island Ave.

forum building
Rendering of the Forum and plaza. The source for this and other images is Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

The Obama Presidential Center website describes the Forum “a commons designed to bring people together” to contain a broadcast and recording studio, auditorium, meeting spaces, and a restaurant. The Forum’s roof overhangs the plaza by 17 feet, providing a good amount of area under shade and protected from precipitation.

The initial permit scope for Forum is “to include tree removal and site clearing,” the July 19 permit says.

The Obama Presidential Center is not a presidential library, since it doesn’t meet the standards of such set forth by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Cityscape reports.

This rendering is from the view atop the Chicago Public Library branch; the Forum is on the right, the the museum tower is in the background, and the plaza is in the foreground. The view is looking north, and Stony Island Ave is on the left.
(Caption originally from Chicago Cityscape)

“But there will be a library, a branch of the Chicago Public Library. A unique aspect of this library is the rooftop space (briefly depicted in the image above), and a rooftop garden ‘similar to the garden that Mrs. Obama planted at the White House’,” Cityscape says.

The permitted address for the new 36-foot tall library branch is 6021 S. Stony Island Ave.

In detail, the July 19 permit says the permit is “Caisson only vertical penetration for proposed two story library structure at Jackson Park for Presidential Center as per plans.” “Scope to include tree removal and site clearing,” the permit says.

The third permit issued is for a partially below-grade parking garage with an address of a 6101 S. Stony Island Ave. “The roof of the garage will blend with the library’s roof, and a park,” Cityscape reports. “Think of Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park, both of which are built atop parking garages.

By footprint, the parking garage will be the largest structure in the OPC and have a maximum of 450 car parking spaces. (Comparatively, the PD 1409 document states that the site will have 50 bicycle parking spaces, which seems insufficient, Chicago Cityscape says.)

Permits haven’t been issued yet for:

  • The museum tower is the first main building (letter “B” on the site plan)’
  • The Program, Athletic, and Activity Center is the fourth main building, and will have a gymnasium with a basketball court (letter “N” on the site plan, across from a relocated track and field); and
  • The open space areas (including a “Great Lawn”), other landscaping, and promenades and park paths.


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