Chicago’s Obama Center Is Under Water

Through Richard Epstein and Michael Rachels

We have been fighting the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s historic Jackson Park for four years. The center, which is set to open in February 2025, is being built in a dangerous place. The water table is high enough to require constant drainage — a danger compounded by large storms off Lake Michigan. An award-winning alternative design on private land west of nearby Washington Park would be less costly and safer to build, and would provide far better access to the South Side community, which is the center’s target audience.

The Obama Foundation just released its 2021 annual report and 990 tax forms. Together they show that the Obama Presidential Center’s financial foundations are just as shaky as its physical ones. The foundation’s 2020 annual report showed some financial openness, estimating that annual donations of $300 million would be required for four consecutive years to cover all future construction and operating costs. The 2021 return showed the foundation had raised just $159 million, down about 8% from 2020. Those dollars are required to fund all of the foundation’s activities, including payroll, fundraising, public relations, and grant and grant programs. Chicago’s Obama Center Is Under Water

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