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CHICAGO (CBS) — Construction has started at the Obama Presidential Center.

Bulldozers started digging into the ground Monday morning. CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports from Jackson Park where signs of change are all around.

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The orange fences are up here on Stony Island. The “men working” sign blocks a lane of traffic. There are women working in the area as well. The first phase of construction that will transform a 19 acre section of Jackson Park.

In the first hours of daylight, residents like Latice Porter saw the striking change in their neighborhood.

“I was surprised to wake up and to see the track was gone,” Porter said. “I walk on the track but it doesn’t matter. I’ll still work around the center.”

Four and a half years after President Barack Obama left office, construction is finally underway on his Presidential Center in Jackson Park. And these neighbors, led on a tour of the site by the Obama Foundation, are happy about it.

“Glad to see it. Because we need to see something such as what the the Obamas are bringing to the table in this community,” Porter said.

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Hard hats, heavy equipment, fences and detour signs are spread out over the 19 acre site. Cornell Drive is narrowed from six to four lanes between 59th Street to Hayes. The Midway east of Stony Island is now permanently closed.

“Sure it’s going to be inconvenient. So what? Every time we go on rush hour going to downtown, going down the Dan Ryan or whatever expressway we use, it’s an inconvenience but who’s complaining,” said Debra Adams.

There has been opposition to the presidential center. Lawsuits delayed construction. Fears the center would reduce affordable housing, that it would hurt the environment by cutting down trees and disrupt a migratory bird corridor.

Robert McGee, whose construction firm will help build the center, said it’s an economic boom by for the community.

“It’s just wonderful,” McGee said. “I mean there’s everything about this is just opportunity to make life better for people of color.”

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The project is set to be finished in four years. A formal groundbreaking ceremony is planned for the fall.

Source: CBS Chicago

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