A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a group of environmentalists’ efforts to stop the Obama Presidential Center from being built inside a public park on Chicago’s South Side.
In dismissing the lawsuit brought against the city of Chicago by Protect Our Parks, U.S. District Judge Robert Blakely said the Obama Foundation had done what it needed to do in getting permission to build inside Jackson Park, and that the city was within its rights to OK the move, the Chicago Tribune reports.
An audible gasp sounded inside the packed courtroom as the judge announced his decision to dismiss. The case had reminded many local court-watchers of a similar lawsuit brought against plans by filmmaker George Lucas of Star Wars fame to build a “narrative art” museum in another public space in Chicago. That case ended with no decision after Lucas decided to have the museum built in Los Angeles instead.
The Obama Foundation was not named in Protect Our Parks’ lawsuit, which instead questioned the city of Chicago’s right to provide public land to a private entity like the foundation. Judge Blakely’s ruling found the group had no case. The group says it will appeal.
South Side residents like Erin Adams, founder of South Side Neighbors for Hope, told the Tribune that she hoped all the drama surrounding the lawsuit wouldn’t make the Obamas decide to take the $500 million library and museum elsewhere.
Calling the judge’s ruling “a huge win for the South Side,” Adams added, “We hope there isn’t a long appeal process.”
Members of Protect Our Parks said they were not against having the Obama library in Chicago, they just wanted the project moved to private land in order to preserve public park space.
“This is a massive venture, and a giveaway of public land to a private entity, here the Obama Foundation,” said the group’s attorney, Mark Roth.
The Obama Foundation, which had taken no public position on the lawsuit, said it was “thrilled” by Blakely’s ruling, with its CEO, David Simas, saying in a statement, according to the Tribune, that its officials:
“are thrilled with the city’s victory and grateful to all of those in Chicago and beyond who have believed in this project and made their voices heard every step of the way. Our vision for the Obama Presidential Center has always been one where the location reinforces the project’s core aims: a celebration of history, a place of connection and engagement for the public, and an investment in community.”