The Obama foundation is set to receive a 99-year lease to build its Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park, according to Chicago Business

The ordinance will go before the City Council on Thursday, along with an ordinance that covers use of the roadways surrounding the center. 

Under terms of the agreement, the Obama Foundation will be responsible for maintaining and keeping in good repair the grounds and buildings, while the City of Chicago will own the buildings and grounds. By contrast, the 11 official Museums in the Parks all have agreements in perpetuity. The foundation will pay the city $10 for the 99-year agreement. –Chicago Business

The foundation will need to satisfy several requirements – including meeting funding requirements for the estimated $350 million project, as well as assurances that the center passes the National Environmental Policy Act, for which a review being conducted by the National Parks Service is currently underway. 

Opponents of the center’s location – a 19.3 acre spread on the National Register of Historic Places – have taken issue with plans to cut down 40 mature trees – a process which has been halted “in an abundance of caution and to allay any doubts about the intentions of the city in respect to the ongoing federal reviews,” according to Shannon Breymaier, deputy director of communications for the mayor’s office.

According to the land-use agreement, the Obama Presidential Center must offer free admission 52 days of the year and offer parking rates on par with rates at the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science & Industry. The grounds surrounding the center must be accessible to the public during Chicago Park District hours; the center can use the center’s green space and plaza for private events for no more than 15 days a year, and may not hold political fundraisers on the grounds.

The agreement also stipulates that the city reimburse the Obama Foundation, up to $75,000, for an environmental investigation of the property and “incremental remediation costs.” –Chicago Business

As Mark Glennon of WirePoints has noted several times, at least $139 million of the center will almost certainly be reimbursed by the federal government despite the fact that it was initially pitched as a privately funded presidential library. 

Here are the details and background:

Contrary to its clear, initial description as a presidential library, it won’t be one. The center will be owned and run by the Obama Foundation, not the National Archives and Records Administration, as are presidential libraries. Obama’s records, artifacts and papers will not be there.

Initial claims that it would be funded entirely with private money also evaporated.“Construction and maintenance will be funded by private donations, and no taxpayer money will go to the foundation,” the foundation’s spokeswoman said. The interpretation was that assured 100 percent private funding.

Meanwhile, the center has been receiving massive donations, as the founders of Twitter and LinkedIn are among those giving or pledging to give north of $1 million to the project, according to the Chicago Sun Times

The stepped up fundraising comes as former President Barack Obama is spending more to program and construct his Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park with the tab to build the complex between $300 million and $350 million.

The new list of $1 million-plus donors has 46 individuals or foundations giving between Sept. 30 and Dec. 31. That compares with 13 individuals or foundations on the donor list released reflecting contributions through the third quarter last year.

Donors already in the Obama Foundation pipeline giving more include Chicago’s Crown family, which had given between $250,000 and $500,000 and is now in the million-dollar plus donor range. Chicago media executive Fred Eychaner, one of the nation’s biggest Democratic donors, who previously had given between $750,001 to $1 million, now is listed as giving more than $1 million. Ariel Investment’s John Rogers, on the Obama Foundation board went from the $500,001 to $750,000 range to more than one million dollars. –Chicago Sun Times

Groundbreaking for the center has been pushed to next year, as the center still has several additional hurdles to clear before construction can begin – including an EPA review. 

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