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Why the Case Against the Obama Presidential Center Is So Important

A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Chicago preservationists can proceed, dealing a blow to Barack Obama's plans to build his library in Jackson Park.
A design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
A design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.Obama Foundation

Last May, a group of Chicago-area preservationists sued the City of Chicago and its parks division over plans for the Obama Presidential Center, which is due to open on the city’s South Side in 2021. The charges: Working with the Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago, the city planned to carve out 20 acres of Jackson Park to build the former president’s library, violating the public trust doctrine—a thorny legal land-use principle tied to Chicago history.

On Tuesday, a federal judge bit on this process claim. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled that a lawsuit can proceed over the decision to build the center in Jackson Park, dealing former President Barack Obama and the city a setback. The city had asked the judge to throw out the case.