New ordinance would rename ‘Columbus Drive’ to ‘Barack Obama Drive’

The downtown Chicago street Columbus Drive could be renamed Barack Obama Drive in a new City Council effort.

Ald. Lamont Robinson, 4th, introduced an ordinance Wednesday to rename the roadway. The move to honor Obama, a former 4th Ward resident, would further cement Chicago as a tourist destination for Black history, Robinson said in a statement.

“This is our opportunity as a city to give him his flowers while he’s still alive and recognize his journey that has inspired millions, including myself, to believe that anything is possible,” Robinson said.

The affected roadway stretches just north of the Chicago River in Streeterville through Grant Park and past the field where Obama gave his historic acceptance speech on the night of the 2008 presidential election. Meanwhile, the debut of Obama’s namesake presidential center in Jackson Park was pushed from late 2025 to mid-2026 earlier this month.

Honorifics commemorating Christopher Columbus sparked protests in 2020, leading former Mayor Lori Lightfoot to order a review of city monuments after her administration removed a statue of Columbus in Grant Park.

For the name change to occur, the ordinance needs to pass through the council’s Transportation Committee before a full City Council vote.

“We need to honor more Black men, and this is one small way we can do that,” Robinson said. “As the saying goes, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’ and Chicago’s children deserve to see that they too can become Black history.”

Aldermen also approved several key appointments made by Mayor Brandon Johnson during Wednesday’s meeting of the full City Council, including Tom Carney as commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Jose Tirado as executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

The council also passed a $45 million settlement for Nathen Jones, the 15-year-old boy left unable to walk, talk or care for himself after he was injured in an April 2021 police chase car crash. Aldermen approved two additional settlements involving police misconduct totaling $7.75 million.

Aldermen also introduced legislation to block the city from evicting migrants from shelters after 60 days and allow the Cubs to place large advertisements on rooftops near Wrigley Field.