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Preliminary work on Obama center to begin later this month

April 15, 2021 GMT
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A track and field in Jackson Park is seen at the site of the future Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center will begin later in the year. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)
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A track and field in Jackson Park is seen at the site of the future Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center will begin later in the year. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Preliminary work on the construction of the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side is scheduled to begin later this month city officials announced Wednesday as a new lawsuit trying to stop the project was filed.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have committed $200 million for Jackson Park and infrastructure work needed to facilitate construction of the center and for redevelopment in nearby communities.

The master plan calls for closing roads in the park so the Obama Center and the nearby Museum of Science and Industry are connected into one campus. The city’s Departments of Housing and Planning and Development have amassed funds to coordinate future private investment in areas near the center.

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“There has never been a better time to invest on the South Side,” Lightfoot said at a news conference held near the planned site of the Obama Center.

Groundbreaking for the center has been delayed because of a federal review needed because the center is being placed in a historic park. The review started in 2017 and recently concluded. Obama Foundation Board Chair Marty Nesbitt says groundbreaking for the complex will likely be in September.

However, foes of the center’s location in Jackson Park filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block its construction. The federal lawsuit argues federal authorities should have relocated the center to protect the surrounding environment. The complaint from the nonprofit Protect Our Parks and other plaintiffs names the city of Chicago, the Obama Foundation, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as defendants.

Protect Our Parks founder and president Herb Caplan said he will fight until the prospect of shovels hitting the ground in Jackson Park is doomed.