The Obama Presidential Center is a $500 million project being built by the Obama Foundation to honor the former first black president. The center is reportedly meant to increase opportunities for black residents living in Chicago’s South Side. But the construction that began in 2021 has resulted in the opposite intended effect.
More and more black residents are reportedly being displaced because of the increase in rent and gentrification. The median price of rent in the area is up 43%, and the values of homes rose by more than double.
The center will not be open for another two years but the ramifications of its construction have already left residents saying that it will be just another “page in the long history of displacing black people.” The reactions are ironic given Barack Obama’s statement at a ceremonial groundbreaking with Michelle.
Investors have swooped in to take advantage of the financial benefits the center will bring for more business. Now, Zillow data shows that since the project was announced home values have shot up more than 130%.
Obama told residents that he wanted to give back to the community that gave him everything, specifically referring to the South Side. But his statement came after years of five years of legal challenges, protests from members of the community, and a federal review.
While residents are arguing that the project is negatively impacting them, the center is reportedly projected to bring in $3.1 billion to the community and an additional $16.5 million in state and local tax revenue.
A working mother told the Washington Post that after 42 years of living in the neighborhood, she can no longer afford her rent. A single mother of three children said that after her landlord increased her rent by nearly 40% she was forced to move out.