Judge throws out lawsuit attempting to block Obama's Presidential Center

Environmentalists decried use of public land

By Caroline Kelly and Bill Kirkos, CNN
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama speaks at a Detroit rally to support Michigan democratic candidates on Oct. 26, 2018.

(CNN) - A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that tried to prevent construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side, saying that construction should begin immediately.

Environmentalists brought the lawsuit against the city of Chicago for the offering of public land for the private project, which former President Barack Obama announced in 2015. Democratic lawmakers in Springfield previously introduced legislation to give the city legal authority to have a private museum or library built on public lands.

"This case is important, but it is not a difficult case," US District Judge John Blakey said in making his ruling to dismiss it.

The Obama Foundation chose Chicago to house the presidential center, which will serve as the foundation's headquarters and a presidential library, in a nod to the former President and first lady's ties to the city. The project will also include a lantern-shaped museum, a public meeting space, an athletic center and a branch of the Chicago Public Library, according to the project website.

The center will also provide space for collaborations with Obama's famous friends, including "a studio where I can invite Spike Lee or Stephen Spielberg to come and do workshops on how to make films around the stories that young activists are working on," the former President said in May 2017.

Obama at the time also promised a music recording studio where, he said, he could "invite Chance (the Rapper) or Bruce Springsteen, depending on your taste, to come here and talk about how you can record music that has social commentary and meaning."

He estimated that the center itself will create 200 to 300 jobs, citing studies that show it will ultimately generate "1,400 to 1,500 (jobs) in the construction phase and another 2,000 in the overall economic development of the area."

CNN's Betsy Klein, Jim Acosta, Jeff Zeleny and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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