United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
PROTECT OUR PARKS, INC., CHARLOTTE ADELMAN, MARIA VALENCIA, and JEREMIAH JUREVIS, Plaintiffs,
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT and CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Robert Blakey United States District Judge
dispute arises out of the City of Chicago (City) and the
Chicago Park District's (Park District) efforts to bring
the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) to the City's South
Side. Plaintiffs sue to prevent construction of the OPC on a
specific site within Jackson Park.  ¶ 1. Following
this Court's ruling on Defendants' Rule 12(b)(1)
motion to dismiss, , the parties completed full discovery
and filed cross-motions for summary judgment,  . On
June 11, 2019, this Court held a hearing, and heard oral
argument only on those issues and counts which required
consideration beyond the briefs.
order addresses the merits of the case. In doing so, this
Court faces the same challenge presented to the Illinois
Supreme Court in Paepcke v. Public Building Commission of
Chicago, 263 N.E.2d 11 (Ill. 1970). As they put it:
[T]his court is fully aware of the fact that the issues
presented in this case illustrate the classic struggle
between those members of the public who would preserve our
parks and open lands in their pristine purity and those
charged with administrative responsibilities who, under the
pressures of the changing needs of an increasingly complex
society, find it necessary, in good faith and for the public
good, to encroach to some extent upon lands heretofore
considered inviolate to change. The resolution of this
conflict in any given case is for the legislature and not the
courts. The courts can serve only as an instrument of
determining legislative intent as evidenced by existing
legislation measured against constitutional limitations. In
this process the courts must deal with legislation as enacted
and not with speculative considerations of legislative
Id. at 21. With this principle in mind and for the
sound reasons set forth below, this Court grants
Defendants' motion for summary judgment, , and
denies Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, .
The facts do not warrant a trial, and construction should
commence without delay. This case is terminated.
following facts come from Plaintiffs' Rule 56.1 statement
of facts, [112-1], Defendants' Rule 56.1 statement of
facts, , Plaintiffs' statement of additional
material facts, , and Defendants' statement of
additional material facts, .
Protect Our Parks, Inc. is a nonprofit park advocacy
organization located in Chicago. [112-1] ¶ 1; 
¶ 1. Its members include individuals who reside in the
City of Chicago and pay taxes to the City. Id.
Plaintiff Adelman resides in Wilmette, Illinois. Id.
Plaintiffs Valencia and Jurevis reside in the City of
Park District exists as a body politic and corporate entity
established by Illinois law, pursuant to the Chicago Park
District Act, 70 ILCS 1505/.01, et seq. [112-1]
¶ 2;  ¶ 2. Defendant City is a body politic
and municipal corporation. [112-1] ¶ 3;  ¶ 3.
Selecting the OPC Site
March 2014, the Barack Obama Foundation (Foundation)
initiated a search for the future site of the OPC. [112-1]
¶ 4. Both the University of Chicago and the University
of Illinois Chicago (UIC) proposed potential locations.
Id. ¶¶ 5, 19. UIC proposed two sites,
generally located at: (1) the North Lawndale neighborhood;
and (2) the east end of the school's campus. Id.
¶ 19; [126-2] at 105098. The University of Chicago
proposed three sites, generally located at: (1) the South
Shore Cultural Center; (2) Jackson Park; and (3) Washington
Park. [112-1] ¶ 5; [126-2] at 105098. At this time, the
Park District owned both the Jackson Park and Washington Park
parkland identified in the University of Chicago's
proposal. [126-2] at 105098.
addition to these sites, nine entities from several locations
throughout the country submitted proposals for the OPC,
resulting in a total of 14 potential sites. [112-1] ¶
25. The Foundation performed an analysis of the proposals
from all submitting entities, evaluating the sites based upon
the following criteria:
• Project Site and Access: desirability of site,
surrounding community, control of site, local accessibility,
• Project Execution: education impact, tourism impact,
economic development impact, enhancements to the physical
• Community Engagement: engagement plan, quality/breadth
of partners, means of engagement
• Indications of Support: partnership structure,
alignment of mission, financial capacity.
Id.; [117-5] at 5. The Foundation assigned numerical
scores to each site based upon the above evaluation criteria,
and ranked the sites based upon these scores. [112-1] ¶
26; [117-5] at 8-9. The Washington Park Site received the
highest score at 122 out of 150; the Jackson Park site
received the second highest score at 121 out of 150; and the
UIC's proposed locations received a combined score of 120
out of 150, putting it in third place. Id.
29, 2016, the Foundation issued a press release announcing
that it chose Jackson Park as the OPC site.  ¶ 13;
The OPC Site
site selected for the OPC within Jackson Park comprises 19.3
acres, or 3.5 percent of the 551.52 acres comprising Jackson
Park.  ¶ 6. It lies on the western edge of Jackson
Park and includes existing parkland bounded by South Stony
Island Avenue to the west, East Midway Plaisance Drive North
to the north, South Cornell Drive to the east, and South 62nd
Street to the south. Id. ¶ 7. The OPC site also
includes land within the park that currently exists as city
streets: the portion of East Midway Plaisance Drive North
between Stony Island Avenue and South Cornell Drive, and a
portion of South Cornell Drive between East Midway Plaisance
Drive South and East Hayes Drive. Id. As part of the
OPC construction, these street portions would be closed and
removed “to restore” the landscape's
connection to the Lagoon and Lake.” Id.
¶¶ 7, 40.
site lies approximately half a mile from Lake Michigan,
separated by: (1) six-lane Cornell Drive; (2) the lagoons and
Wooded Island of Jackson Park; (3) Jackson Park's golf
driving range and other grounds; (4) Lake Shore Drive; and
(5) a pedestrian and bike path. Id. ¶ 7. It
sits entirely above ground, although the parties dispute
whether the site formerly sat beneath Lake Michigan.
Id. ¶ 9;  ¶ 9 (Plaintiffs'
will consist of a campus containing open green space, a
plaza, and four buildings: (1) the Museum Building; (2) the
Forum Building; (3) a Library Building; and (4) a Program,
Athletic, and Activity Center.  ¶¶ 23, 26. It
will also include an underground parking garage. Id.
Museum will comprise the OPC's principal building and
“central mission.”  ¶ 24. It seeks to
“tell the stories of the first African American
President and First Lady of the United States, their
connection to Chicago, and the individuals, communities, and
social currents that shaped their local and national
journey.” Id. ¶ 25. In doing so, the
Museum will feature artifacts and records from President
Obama's presidency, including items on loan from the
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Id. ¶¶ 24-25; [125-5] (Exhibit D, Recital
Forum Building will contain collaboration and creative
spaces, including an auditorium, meeting rooms, recording and
broadcasting studios, and a winter garden and restaurant.
 ¶ 27.
Library Building will include a branch of the Chicago Public
Library and a President's Reading Room, featuring curated
collections and displays of archival material, including
digital access to Obama Administration records. Id.
¶ 28; [125-5] (Exhibit D, (Sub) Exhibit
Program, Athletic, and Activity Center will host public
programs such as “presentations, events, athletics, and
recreation.”  ¶ 29; [125-5] (Exhibit D, (Sub)
OPC's green space will include features such as: (1) play
areas for children; (2) “contemplative spaces for young
and old”; (3) a sledding hill; (4) a sloped lawn for
picnicking, recreation and community and special events; (5)
walking paths; and (6) a nature walk along the lagoon. 
¶ 30. The Foundation will also “preserve and
enhance” the existing Women's Garden and Lawn,
keeping it open and available as green space. Id.
According to the Use Agreement between the City and
Foundation, discussed in detail below, the OPC buildings must
“be open to the public at a minimum in a manner
substantially consistent with the manner in which other
Museums in the Parks are open to the public.”
Id. ¶ 26; [125-5] (Exhibit D, §
6.2(a)(i)). All other portions of the OPC, such as the green
space, must remain open to the public during regular Park
District hours.  ¶ 30; [125-5] (Exhibit D, §
will charge fees for entry into the Museum and for the
parking garage. [112-1] ¶ 43. It will, however, provide
free public access to many interior spaces within the OPC,
including portions of the garden and plaza levels in the
Museum Building and the top floor of the Museum Building.
 ¶ 26. Moreover, the Foundation must operate the
OPC in accordance with the free admission requirements of
Illinois' Park District Aquarium and Museum Act, which
mandates free admission to all Illinois residents at least 52
days out of the year and to all Illinois school children
accompanied by a teacher. Id. ¶ 37. The
admission fee policy for members of the public who are City
residents, or low-income individuals and their families
participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (or equivalent program), must also be
“substantially consistent with comparable general
admission fee policies” for such individuals maintained
by “other Museums in the Park.” [125-5] (Exhibit
D, § 6.10).
OPC Municipal Approval Process
Jackson Park's Creation
1869, the General Assembly passed “An Act to Provide
for the Location and Maintenance of a Park for the Towns of
South Chicago, Hyde Park and Lake” (1869 Act). [112-1]
¶ 17; Private Laws, 1869, vol. 1, p. 358. The statute
provided for the formation of a board of public park
commissioners to be known as the “South Park
Commissioners.” Id. The Act authorized these
commissioners to select certain lands, which, when acquired
by said commissioners, “shall be held, managed and
controlled by them and their successors, as a public park,
for the recreation, health and benefit of the public, and
free to all persons forever.” Private Laws, 1869, vol.
1, p. 360. Pursuant to this authority, the commissioners
acquired the land now known as Jackson Park. [112-1] ¶
17;  ¶ 17 (Defendants' response). The Illinois
Legislature enacted the Park District Consolidation Act in
1934, which consolidated the existing park districts,
including the South Park District, into the Chicago Park
District. 70 ILCS 1505/1.
Transfer From the Park District to the City
early January of 2015-before the Jackson Park site
selection-the Foundation expressed “concerns regarding
the City's lack of control” over the proposed
Jackson and Washington Park sites and indicated that
“consolidating ownership of the sites and local
decision-making authority in the City was a prerequisite to a
successful bid.” [126-2] at 105098-99.
in February 2015-in an open meeting during which members of
the public spoke and submitted written comments-the Park
District's Board of Commissioners voted to approve the
transfer of “approximately 20 acres of property”
located in Washington Park or Jackson Park to the City. 
¶ 11; [125-4] at 4, 11. Following this meeting, the OPC
site's boundaries within Jackson Park shifted to the
north and east.  ¶ 11.
February 2018, after a public meeting, the Board of
Commissioners confirmed authority to transfer the
reconfigured site to the City. Id.
March 2015, the City Council enacted an ordinance
“authorizing the execution of an intergovernmental
agreement between the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park
District necessary to acquire selected sites in order to
facilitate the location, development, construction and
operation” of the OPC.  ¶ 12; [126-2] at
105096. In October 2018, following the Jackson Park
selection, the City Council passed an ordinance finding it
“useful, desirable, necessary and convenient that the
City acquire the OPC site from the Park District” for
the “public purpose” of constructing and
operating the OPC.  ¶ 12; [125-5] at 85886 §
City Council Approval
January 2018, the Foundation applied to the City for a zoning
amendment to build the OPC on the Jackson Park site as a
“planned development”-a designation required for
certain institutional and campus-oriented projects. 
¶ 13; [126-3]. The Foundation also applied for approval
under the City's Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront
Protection Ordinance (LPO).  ¶ 13. The City's
Department of Planning and Development (DPD) subsequently
reviewed both applications and prepared a report (DPD Study)
as required by the City's Municipal Code. Id.
The DPD Study recommended approving both applications.
17, 2018, the Chicago Plan Commission-which reviews proposals
involving planned developments and the Lakefront Protection
Ordinance within the City-held a public hearing on the
Foundation's application for a planned development zoning
amendment and for approval under the LPO. Id. ¶
14; [126-5]. Representatives from the City and the Foundation
testified at the hearing, and over 75 members of the public
commented on the proposals.  ¶ 14. The presentation
from DPD staff included a slideshow depicting various
renderings of the OPC proposal. Id.
conclusion of this hearing, the Plan Commission found that
the OPC project conformed with the LPO and approved the
Foundation's application under the LPO. Id.
¶ 15. In doing so, the Plan Commission adopted the DPD
Study as its findings of fact. Id. Under the
City's Municipal Code, the Plan Commission serves as the
final decisionmaker as to whether a project complies with the
Lakefront Plan of Chicago and the purposes of the LPO.
Id.; Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) §
the May 17 hearing, the Plan Commission recommended approval
of the Foundation's application for a zoning amendment.
 ¶ 16. Again, the Plan Commission adopted the DPD
Study as the Commission's own findings of fact.
Id. Under the City's Municipal Code, after
considering a zoning amendment application, the Plan
Commission must refer the application to the City Council,
which serves as the final decisionmaker on the amendment.
Id.; MCC § 17-13-0607.
on May 22, 2018, the City Council's Committee on Zoning,
Landmarks and Building Standards held a public hearing to
consider the zoning amendment.  ¶ 17. Following
testimony from City and Foundation representatives and public
comments, the Committee voted to recommend approval.
Id. The next day, the full City Council approved the
amendment, enacting an ordinance that authorized construction
of the OPC as a Planned Development; this ordinance controls
the size and layout of the OPC's buildings. Id.
October 2018, the City Council considered and approved two
additional ordinances for the OPC project. Id.
¶ 19. First, it considered the Operating Ordinance,
which allows the City to accept title to the Jackson Park
site from the Park District and to enter into agreements with
the Foundation governing the Foundation's use of the
site. Id. On October 11, 2018, the City
Council's Committee on Housing and Real Estate held a
public hearing on the Operating Ordinance, during which City
and Foundation representatives testified about the ordinance
and members of the public commented. Id. The
Committee voted unanimously to recommend adopting the
Operating Ordinance, and the full City Council unanimously
approved it on October 31, 2018. Id.
the City Council considered an ordinance authorizing the City
to vacate portions of East Midway Plaisance Drive South and
Cornell Drive within Jackson Park for conversion into
parkland as part of the OPC site. Id. ¶ 20. On
October 25, 2018 the City Council's Committee on
Transportation and Public Way held a public hearing on the
ordinance, during which City and Foundation representatives
again testified, and members of the public commented.
Id. The Committee voted unanimously to recommend
adopting the ordinance, and the full City Council unanimously
approved it on October 31, 2018. Id.
The Use Agreement
the agreements authorized by the Operating Ordinance includes
the Use Agreement, which sets out the terms by which the
Foundation may use Jackson Park for the OPC. Id.
¶ 21; [125-5] (Exhibit D). The Use Agreement does not
transfer ownership of the OPC site, nor does it lease the
site to the Foundation. See generally [125-5]
(Exhibit D); [112-1] ¶ 46. Rather, section 2.1 of the
Use Agreement provides the Foundation with the following
rights with respect to the OPC site for a 99-year term:
(a) the right to construct and install the Project
Improvements(including the Presidential Center);
(b) the right to occupy, use, maintain, operate and alter the
Presidential Center Architectural Spaces; and
(c) the right to use, maintain, operate and alter the
Presidential Center Green Space and Green
[125-5] (Exhibit D, §§ 2.1-.2).
Foundation will construct the OPC's buildings at its own
expense and upon completion, transfer ownership of the
buildings and other site improvements to the City at no
charge. Id. §§ 2.1, 4.4;  ¶ 34.
The Foundation will also maintain the OPC site and buildings
at its sole expense for the entire life of the Use Agreement.
 ¶ 35; [125-5] (Exhibit D, §§ 2.2, 7.1).
The City is not required to enter into the Use Agreement
until the Foundation establishes an endowment for the OPC and
the site, and confirms that it has funds or commitments
sufficient to pay the projected construction costs. 
consideration, the Use Agreement provides:
The consideration for this Agreement is Ten and 00/100
Dollars ($10.00) payable by the Foundation on the
Commencement Date, the receipt and sufficiency of which, when
taken together with the construction, development, operation,
maintenance and repair of the Presidential Center and the
other Project Improvements by the Foundation, the vesting of
ownership of the Project Improvements by the Foundation in
the City (as contemplated herein), as well as the material
covenants and agreements set forth herein to be performed and
observed by the Foundation, are hereby acknowledged by the
[125-5] (Exhibit D, Art. III).
respect to operating the OPC, the Use Agreement prohibits the
Foundation from using the OPC for political fundraisers or in
any manner inconsistent with its status as a tax exempt
entity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Id. at § 6.3(d);  ¶ 21. The
Foundation must use revenues collected from general and
special admission fees, parking and other visitor services,
third-party use fees, food and beverage sales, and retail
sales for the OPC's ...