Moody Nolan’s Program & Athletics Center at the Obama Presidential Center is breaking ground in Chicago

The highly-anticipated Obama Presidential Center in South Side Chicago by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects is slated for completion in 2026. Construction is beginning this month on a new building by Moody Nolan at the campus in Jackson Park.

The Programs & Athletic Center will be one of four buildings sited on the Obama Presidential Center’s 19-acre campus. Upon completion, it will provide a hub for activities and gatherings that will service the South Side community. A formal ground breaking ceremony will be held on March 11 that President Obama will attend to kick off construction. Elevate Design Builders is the general contractor.

“It’s an incredible honor to design this community asset that will sit alongside the presidential museum honoring our first Black president,” said Renauld Deandre Mitchell, a partner at Moody Nolan who grew up in Englewood, not far from the Obama Presidential Center. “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 Obama Presidential Center Athletic Center (Courtesy The Obama Foundation)

The Programs & Athletic Center will house gym facilities and spaces for the community to partake in recreational- and wellness-oriented programming. It will of course include a court to play basketball, a favorite pastime of the former President. New renderings of the building show the site surrounded by a robust landscaping scheme comprising walking trails and ample seating opportunities. Beyond its walls, there will be play areas even a sledding hill. A “pedestrian promenade” will extend from the Center through Jackson Park to pass by the natural lagoons.

To date, Moody Nolan has completed other projects in the region, including Englewood STEM high school, Wintrust Arena, and the University of Illinois Mile Square Health Center.

President Obama will meet soon with firm leaders at Moody Nolan and Elevate Design Builders to discuss the project. The groundbreaking ceremony coincides with a new installation at the Obama Presidential Center called Power of Words: an 88-foot-tall canvas that’s physically built into the monumental interior architecture of the Center’s museum.

To celebrate the nation’s “First Digital President,” the new exhibit “highlights the diverse ways the Power of Words manifests through speeches, voices, song, poetry, and represented by the words of the Obamas as well as other changemakers and everyday people,” the Obama Foundation said. “Visitors engage from different vantage points, discovering new perspectives with each viewing.”

Construction on the Programs & Athletic Center will finish in 2025.

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