More Thorough Review Needed for Obama Presidential Center Says Federal Agency

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More Thorough Review Needed for Obama Presidential Center Says Federal Agency

More Thorough Review Needed for Obama Presidential Center Says Federal Agency
Aug 22, 2019

Media Contact: Nord Wennerstrom | T: 202.483.0553  | M: 202.225.7076 | E: [email protected]

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation calls for more information about Center's "adverse effect" on historic Jackson Park 

Washington, D.C. (August 22, 2019) - Today the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the “independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation's historic resources,” released a letter concerning the federal-level review of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). The review, pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, is being done to determine whether the OPC would have “adverse effects” on Jackson Park, the Midway Plaisance, and myriad other historic properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. According to the agency’s website, “A key ACHP function is overseeing the federal historic preservation review process established by Section 106.” The ACHP’s letter addresses the draft Assessment of Effects (AOE) report, which was prepared by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and issued on July 29, 2019. The AOE concluded that if built as planned, the OPC would significantly diminish the integrity of two Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.-designed parks. 

The ACHP has instructed the Federal Highway Administration to more thoroughly assess the OPC’s potential impact, stating, “The ACHP is concerned that not enough detail is provided to properly characterize the nature and intensity of the adverse effects to the cultural landscapes of Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance.”

“The letter from the ACHP is a very important development and a reminder that the OPC in Jackson Park is not a done deal, as its proponents would have us believe,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, president & CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), which is an “official consulting party” to the Section 106 review. “As we’ve stated repeatedly, we are not opposed to the OPC on Chicago’s South Side; however, we do not support the confiscation of nationally significant, historic public parkland for the facility.”

Specifically, the ACHP letter calls for the following:

  1. A more detailed account of the nature and intensity of the adverse effects to Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance. The ACHP has asked for this increased level of detail to “enable informed consideration of avoidance, minimization, or mitigation measures.”
  2. That the AOE delineate how, exactly, the proposed plans for Jackson Park would alter or diminish the integrity of the character-defining landscape features of Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance.
  3.  To determine whether the affected historic properties would be delisted from the National Register of Historic Places as a result of the proposed plans.
  4. To expand the Traffic Impact Study to include the roads in historic neighborhoods surrounding Jackson Park, so as to better understand how those historic properties would be impacted.
  5. To conduct above-ground-level visual analysis for historic properties in proximity to Jackson Park, to determine the visual impact of the OPC tower on them.
  6. To determine whether the proposed plans would indirectly or cumulatively affect Washington Park, which is also part of the ensemble of the original Olmsted design.
  7. To disclose how the Midway Plaisance was selected as the site of replacement acreage for the UPARR conversion, and whether any measures were considered, as part of the selection process, that would have avoided adverse effects to the historic property. 

As originally scheduled, written public comments on the AOE are being accepted at [email protected] until 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019.