Obama Nixes Idea Of ‘Benefits Agreement’ With Library Neighbors

(CBS) – Barack Obama was a surprise participant, via satellite Thursday night, in the latest public meeting on plans for his planned presidential center in Jackson Park.

He told protesters he would not support a “Community Benefits Agreement” with area residents that would guarantee, among other things, economic gains.

Mr. Obama said he wants the process to be transparent and inclusive. But a benefits agreement is for private, for-profit developments, whereas the Obama Center will be not-for-profit, he said.

He said the concerns of stakeholders will be heard.

Those present Thursday got a first look at the design — three buildings, two with parkland on top and a third in the shape of an obelisk, the representation races joined together.

Passionate activists from camped out overnight at McCormick Place to have their voices heard. They were pushing for the CBA in hopes they won’t be displaced. Many said they don’t object to the project and agree it would be good for the South Side.

Some say the neigbhorhood is already benefiting.

Business owner Alissa Starks has a mixed-use project lined up at 71st and Jeffrey is less than mile from the site of the Obama Presidential Center.

Ald. Leslie Hairston says businesses are “taking a second look” at the neighborhood now.

And with more than 2,000 jobs projected, Hairston is preparing community residents for construction positions.

Meanwhile, homeowners like Ce Cole are excited about the rise in property values. Her four-bedroom home in the Jackson Park Highlands area was once valued at $950,000 but is appraised at $650,000 currently. Realtors tell her if she waits a couple of years to sell it, the value could rise to $800,000.

“People want to be in proximity to great things,” she says.

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