Saying residents already are getting priced out of homes around the Jackson Park site of the planned Obama Presidential Center, aldermen from the area intend to introduce an ordinance this week aimed at protecting nearby affordable housing.
Former President Barack Obama himself has come out against such a community benefits agreement, saying the presidential center will stoke a South Side economic revival without a binding agreement to guarantee certain benchmarks in housing and jobs for people who live nearby.
But new Ald. Jeanette Taylor, 20th, said people living around the park in Woodlawn and Grand Crossing are clamoring for safeguards as rents and property taxes are rising now thanks to real estate speculation in anticipation of the presidential center.
Taylor said she and Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, haven’t gotten an answer from Mayor Lori Lightfoot about whether she will back this particular plan. But Taylor said there’s no time to lose, and Lightfoot needs to “walk the walk” after saying during her mayoral campaign that she supported a community benefits agreement around the center.
“Her campaign promise was that she supported a CBA. It should have been done on the front end,” Taylor said. “So myself and Ald. Leslie Hairston are taking on that fight.”
Lightfoot on Tuesday said she understood residents’ desire for assurances, but stopped short of supporting a CBA around the presidential center. “I think you’ve got to respect the rights of people that live in that community, that have been, I think, feeling … neglected by the efforts so far,” Lightfoot said while talking to reporters at City Hall. “I intend to, as I’ve started, to work with all sides to get to a place so that we can move forward. And I don’t want to get ahead of the federal process, but I’m looking forward to breaking ground.
“I really want to see what they put forward,” Lightfoot said of the CBA proposal. “But, look, unfortunately, because of lots of things that have happened in our city over time, there’s not trust unless there’s something in writing and signed. So I’m not suggesting that’s where we will ultimately get to, but the rights of the community have to be respected. I’m sure there’s a desire for it to be in writing, but again, I’m going to work through discussions with both sides and see where we get to.”
Taylor said Lightfoot has “a million things going on,” so she and Hairston will move ahead.
“They’re already trying to take over Woodlawn, we already see people being displaced,” Taylor said. “I get calls on a daily basis, people telling me, ‘My landlord is asking me to move because they want to sell the building.’ So we’ve got to do this. This has to be introduced to hold the city accountable for what does or does not happen.”
Early in her campaign for Chicago mayor, Lightfoot said she supported a CBA. Later, Lightfoot stopped short of promising one and instead said the controversy would be settled under her leadership.