Residents of Chicago’s South Side have voiced concerns about the damage the development of the Obama Presidential Center will have on the community, with longtime residents being threatened by displacement due to soaring rent prices associated with the project.
In September 2021, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking on the site that would host the Presidential Center.
The groundbreaking revealed a 19-acre plot that would host community centers, a playground, a public library branch, and a museum, with the aim being to revitalize Chicago’s South Side.
The project has primarily been funded through private donations.
But while the $500 million project is still being developed, residents on Chicago’s South Side continue to voice their concerns that the Obama Presidential Center will gentrify the community, with the positive “economic impact” promised by the former President raising rents and property prices, making housing unaffordable to longtime residents.
On Monday (April 3), an article in the Washington Post titled “Chicago neighbors say Obama center is raising rents, forcing them out” detailed how property prices in the neighboring communities have doubled since Obama announced the project’s development.
The article references an exchange Brandon Johnson (D), a candidate for Chicago Mayor, had with a resident.
Johnson highlighted how the areas where “economic development” is planned shouldn’t displace locals who’ve lived there for decades.
A resident replied, “The Obama Center is not being built for Chicago,” but rather the world, stating the world doesn’t want longtime residents there.
However, Dixon Romeo, a native of South Shore and community activist, emphasized that the Obama Presidential Center should benefit the residents who helped propel Obama to the White House.
But Romeo’s sentiment isn’t shared by landlords, as detailed by some longtime residents who’ve had to leave the community because of skyrocketing rents.
42-Year-old Tahiti Hammer, a mom-of-three and longtime South Side resident had to vacate a rental when her landlord raised rents by nearly 40 percent “in the same year the Obama Center broke ground.”