Obama Foundation Taps Diverse Leaders to Design & Build its Programs & Athletic Center
Today, the Obama Foundation announced the hiring of two Black-owned firms with Chicago ties to design and build the Programs & Athletic Center at the Obama Presidential Center.
As one of four buildings on the 19.3 acre campus, the Programs & Athletic Center will be a community anchor with a state of the art gymnasium and additional space for recreation and community programming, providing safe space for physical activity for young people during after school hours and in summer months while also offering space for community organizations and people of all ages throughout the year to exercise, play and gather.
The contract to design the facility has been awarded to Moody Nolan, the largest Black-owned architecture firm in the United States. The firm has a significant presence in Chicago, as well as an established commitment to the South Side, with an office led by Moody Nolan Partner and Englewood native Renauld Deandre Mitchell. The firm includes in their esteemed portfolio the design of Englewood STEM high school, the new Malcolm X College, Wintrust Arena, and the University of Illinois Mile Square Health Center.
“It’s an incredible honor to design this community asset that will sit alongside the presidential museum honoring our first Black president,” said Mitchell. “President Obama and I share a commitment to mentoring and creating opportunities for the next generation of Black leaders and the Foundation’s belief in us will allow us to do more of this with young architects supporting the work of this project.”
The construction contract for the Programs & Athletic Center has been awarded to Elevate Design Build Group, a new joint venture led by BOWA Construction with AECOM/Hunt. The decision follows the similar and successful approach taken by the Foundation in selecting Lakeside Alliance, also composed of local Black-owned construction firms and Turner Construction, to oversee the creation of a diverse workforce that will build the Center.
“I remember standing outside at the 2009 Inauguration and being inspired for change,” said Nosa Ehimwenman, founder of BOWA Construction. “Now our firm, which has established our roots on Chicago’s South Side, gets to have an opportunity to be part of that change our community wants.”
For the construction of the overall Obama Presidential Center and the Programs & Athletic Center, the Foundation has committed to awarding at least 50 percent of the subcontracting packages to diverse vendors, exceeding the City’s goal of 26 percent and 6 percent commitment to minority and women owned businesses (MBE/WBE) and vendors, based on the belief that the team that’s building the Center should look like the community it calls home.
“As we hoped, the Obama Presidential Center is not only an investment in the vitality of our South Side communities but also in the residents who live there,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “I’m pleased to see diverse, local developers and designers lead this project forward in a demonstration of the Center’s commitment to revitalizing and serving our communities.”
In accordance with its ongoing authority under the 2018 planned development, the City of Chicago approved a minor change request for enhancements to the design as part of the continued refinement of plans for the Programs & Athletic Center. While the fundamental use of the facility remains unchanged, its design is being refined to account for matured programming concepts and building infrastructure needs. Among the refinements being made are an expansion of the gymnasium and accompanying programming spaces – changes made in response to inputs received by the Foundation from community leaders to accommodate youth programming.
“Since she took office, Mayor Lightfoot’s partnership has helped ensure the Obama Presidential Center reaches its full potential as a community hub and something that creates economic opportunities for our community,” said Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation. “When we open our doors in a few years, we will know it is a moment made possible by her leadership and hard work on behalf of Chicago residents.”
The recreational hub anchors the south end of the Obama Presidential Center campus, sitting just north of the new Jackson Park track and field and adjacent to the South Side YMCA and Hyde Park High School. The Obama Foundation is conducting ongoing outreach to young people, coaches, community members and sports-based youth development organizations to ensure that the facility’s programmatic offerings are responsive to community needs and inputs.
As is the case with other buildings on the campus, the Programs & Athletic Center will meet the highest environmental sustainability requirements.
The Obama Foundation broke ground on the Center in 2021 with an anticipated opening in 2025.