CHICAGO (CBS) —It’s a groundbreaking five years in the making.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker joined the former first family with shovels in hand at the site of the Obama Presidential Center.READ MORE: Ald. Carrie Austin Thanks City Council, Mayor For Support After Her Collapse At December Meeting
CBS 2’s Chris Tye reports from Jackson Park where the event wrapped up. By the numbers, it’s 19 acres and it’s likely to draw in 750,000 people a year. It’s been five years since it was announced, now another four years to build it out.
But the message from the Obamas was they want to build something totally unique and they made it clear it had to be on Chicago’s South Side.
“This day has been a long time coming,” said former President Barack Obama.
Like the Jackson Park soil itself, the Obama Presidential Center’s launch has been rocky. On Tuesday, a smoothing over with the help and perspective of Chicago’s most famous faces.
“This doesn’t feel so much like building something new. It feels like we’re helping to reveal what’s always been here,” said former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“The Obama Presidential Center is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city gave to us,” said the former president.READ MORE: Charges To Be Filed Soon In Connection With Shooting Death Of 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega
Small groups in the city put up big hurdles. Preservationist groups sued over the number of trees cut down and the effects on bird migration patterns. Others concerned the center will price out locals who’ve lived in the area for years.
When first announced in 2015, the estimated cost was $500 million. Today, the Obama Foundation Annual Report estimates the center will cost $830 million. That includes $700 million for building costs. It’s a surge compared to other presidential centers and libraries.
*The George W. Bush Center – $500 million
*The Clinton Presidential Center – $165 million
*The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library – $43 million
*The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library – $60 million
The Obamas said this destination will be different than those that preceded it.
“It won’t just be an exercise in nostalgia or looking backwards,” said Obama. “We want to look forward. We want this to be a living, thriving home for concerts, cultural events, lectures, training, summits.”MORE NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer To Retire
In a subtle nod to preservationists, the former president said in addition to libraries and concert venues, its mission is to reunify animal habitat and create a culture of new birds and wildlife on the property moving forward.