The Obama Foundation released updated plans for its presidential center in Chicago on Wednesday after receiving feedback from the community.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects’ new design for the combination museum and community center in Jackson Park features a taller and slimmer version of the high-rise museum tower and an underground parking structure.
They increased the height of the tower from 178 feet to 235 feet and decreased the width in favor of adding additional green space at its base.
“I don’t feel embarrassed about it being tall,” architect Billie Tsien said. “This isn’t a private homage. It’s a public recognition of many people’s stories.”
The redesign of the building, previously criticized as appearing monolithic, also implemented stone letters into the tower’s outer walls to create an airier atmosphere and emphasize the importance of words in Barack Obama’s presidency.
Obama said the museum tower, which will contain a ticketed exhibition space dedicated to the Obamas, the Civil Rights Movement and broader African-American history, represents “ascension, hope and what ordinary people have the power to do together.”
The Obama Foundation formally submitted plans Wednesday to the Chicago Plan Commission in hopes of receiving approval in the spring and potentially breaking ground by year-end. They plan to open the center in 2021.
“We have a sense of urgency about this project. People are anxious to have this come to life,” said Michael Strautmanis, the foundation’s vice president of civic engagement.
Critics of the project said the center will compromise the quiet, contemplative character of Jackson Park.
The foundation chose to scrap the above-ground parking lot first proposed when plans were released in May.
Other concerns include the foundation’s plan to close Cornell Drive, a heavily used traffic artery that cuts through the park.
Funds for the estimated $500 million center will be raised privately, but millions of dollars in public funds may be necessary for projects to handle the impact of the road closure.
In addition to seeking city approval, the center is under ongoing federal review due to Jackson Park’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.