Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Illinois ruled Tuesday that a lawsuit targeting the location of the planned Obama Presidential Center in Chicago's South Side can move forward.
U.S. District Judge John Blakey said the plaintiffs, advocacy group Protect Our Parks and three individuals, have standings to challenge the city's decision to build the center on 19.3 acres of Jackson Park. He didn't offer his opinion of the merits of the case, but said the group technically could sue the city for using public land for the construction of a private building that promotes former President Barack Obama's political views.
"Plaintiffs ask this court to find that President Obama ... will, at some undefined time and in an undefined manner, disregard both the use agreement and applicable tax law by engaging in partisan political activities at the [Obama Presidential Center]," Blakey wrote in his ruling. "This court declines plaintiffs' invitation to predict the future."
Obama, appearing at a community meeting in Chicago in February 2018, said the presidential center would create jobs and attract businesses to the neighborhood. He downplayed concerns about increased housing costs that could stem from the project.
"A lot of times, people get nervous about gentrification and understandably so," Obama said. "It is not my experience ... that the big problem on the South Side has been too much development, too much economic activity, too many people being displaced because all these folks from Lincoln Park are filling in to the South Side. That's not what's happening."
The Obama Foundation unveiled the conceptual design for the center in May 2017, a 200,000-square-foot complex that includes a museum, forum, library and outdoor gathering areas. It will also serve as the headquarters for the foundation.