A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit filed by environmentalists to block the building of former President Barack Obama’s presidential library in south Chicago. The library will be built on public land, which prompted outcry from some civic groups.
The Obama Foundation chose Chicago owing to Obama’s strong ties to the city. Before coming to DC to serve first as a senator and later as president, Obama was a professor at the University of Chicago. He had also worked as a community activist and lawyer in Chicago, during which time he met his future wife, Michelle Robinson.
The environmentalists suing to stop the library claimed that the structure, which will be built at Jackson Park, was not in the public interest. They argued that the library should not be built in a public park. Illinois legislation gives local governments the authority to allow public land to host private museums.
Presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey argued that the museum would provide “a multitude of benefits to the public.” He cited artistic, cultural, and recreational opportunities for the community and claimed that the plaintiffs were, in fact, trying to twist public benefits into a private purpose.
The museum will be built by the Obama Foundation and will cost roughly $500 million. It will feature public meeting spaces, an athletic center, and even a branch of the Chicago Public Library. It’s believed that the center will also generate 200-300 jobs to operate and as many as 1,500 jobs during the construction phase.
The judge gave the green light for construction to be started as soon as possible. Before ground is broken, however, the library will have to undergo a federal review.