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The Obamas hope that the center will be a new landmark and an economic engine for Chicago, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors, creating thousands of new jobs on the city's south side where they lived and worked for years.

Another concern stems from the plan to hand over large portions of historic public parks to the Obama Foundation for use in building the venue.

The Obama Center as now planned will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhoods. A two-level athletic center includes basketball courts (for playing the president's favorite sport) alongside workout rooms and multipurpose space. The group also complains the center abandoned plans to be a library and instead will have only electronic archives on site.

This is not to say that the economic needs of the neighborhoods around Jackson Park should be ignored. "Because the current plans place the Center next to the Museum of Science and Industry and across the street from the University of Chicago campus, there is no available adjacent land in which to start a new business, set up a new café or restaurant, [or] bring another cultural center to the neighborhood".

Charles Lipson, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, which sits just blocks away from the center's future location, said Mr. Obama is "indulging himself" by building "a monument along the lakefront, where it will have a lot less positive impact than it could have had elsewhere". "The majority of the space will be free and open to the public".

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Despite such claims, a coalition of eight community groups on the South Side is demanding the Obama Foundation sign an agreement guaranteeing neighborhood involvement in the development and maintenance of the Obama Center.

Obama noted that, when he was younger, he went through a phase when he wanted to be an architect.

"None of the funds will go back to the City to improve train lines and public transportation infrastructure", the faculty members add. The required widening of Lake Shore Drive alone is estimated to be over $100 million.

We're sure the new 3D renderings for the park - released Wednesday - will only throw fuel on that fire.


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