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 April 13, 2024

Federal Court Upholds Obama Foundation's Right To Build In Park

In a landmark decision, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has confirmed the Obama Foundation's right to construct the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago's Jackson Park.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the court ruling dismissed Protect Our Parks' challenge, enabling continued construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

Long Legal Battle Culminates in Court Decision

The recent ruling by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marks a significant milestone in what has been a protracted legal struggle over the construction of the Obama Presidential Center. This ruling could represent "the final installment in the long-running challenge," according to a federal judge.

Judges Diane Wood, Ilana Rovner, and David Hamilton were the panel members who ruled against the parks advocacy group, Protect Our Parks, this April. The group had contended that the lease agreement infringed upon the public trust.

The court, however, found the claims of Protect Our Parks to be without merit, asserting that the group could not demonstrate an entitlement to any relief against the construction of the Center.

Advocacy Group Vows Continued Resistance

Despite the appellate court's ruling, Protect Our Parks has criticized the decision and hinted at potential future legal actions. They described the court's decision as "wrong on every critical question of law and fact," maintaining their opposition to the project.

Construction of the Obama Presidential Center, meanwhile, continues to progress. The site has been active since April 2023, moving forward with developments even amidst ongoing legal disputes.

The group raised several issues, including environmental concerns and questions about the fulfillment of financial commitments by the Obama Foundation. Nonetheless, their efforts to halt construction have thus far been unsuccessful.

Community Benefits Highlighted by Foundation CEO

Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation, expressed satisfaction with the court's ruling, emphasizing the benefits to the community. "Our focus through the legal journey has been to protect the interests of our community," Jarrett stated. She also mentioned the Foundation's commitment to bringing a "world-class institution to Chicago."

"We’re eager to bring the Obama Presidential Center to life and this ruling brings us one step closer to doing just that," Jarrett added. This sentiment underscores the Foundation's intention to advance the project despite legal challenges.

The court emphasized that the plaintiffs, Protect Our Parks, had no standing in the financial agreements between the city and the Foundation, further weakening their position.

Legal and Environmental Reviews Upheld

The court also confirmed the thoroughness of previous environmental assessments and stated that there was no legal error in these analyses. This aspect of the decision reassures that the project adheres to necessary environmental standards.

Moreover, the court ruled that the federal government did not have the authority to select an alternative site for the museum, a point of contention brought up by Protect Our Parks.

The planned opening of the Obama Presidential Center is set for 2026, with its athletic center expected to open a year earlier, in late 2025. This timeline remains on track following the court's favorable ruling.


In conclusion, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Protect Our Parks, affirming the lease agreement between the city of Chicago and the Obama Foundation for a section of Jackson Park. The court found the plaintiffs' claims insufficient to halt construction, which continues as planned. Protect Our Parks has indicated the possibility of future legal actions, while the Obama Foundation and local community leaders celebrate the advancement of a project expected to bring significant benefits to the area.

Written By:
Christina Davie

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