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Obama back in Chicago for first time as former president

President Barack Obama, wearing his Chicago White Sox baseball cap, and carrying a pair of sneakers, arrives for a private game of basketball at Fort McNair in Washington, on Nov. 8, 2016. Playing basketball on election day is a tradition for Obama. | Pablo Martinez/AP

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama returned to Chicago for the first time as an ex-president on Wednesday, mapping plans for his Obama Center to be built in Jackson Park.

Obama had four meetings: One with community leaders on the South Side, at the Foundation’s Hyde Park offices, and three others relating to what will be a massive fundraising drive to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the Center.

Obama huddled with Chicagoans who have been his major benefactors, Jim and Lester Crown, and his former Commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, and her husband, Bryan Traubert.

Former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said, “There was great enthusiasm from the civic leaders about the opportunity to work with the Foundation.

“Those with whom President Obama met have long and deep ties to the community,” she said. “It was important to the President to communicate how important they are to the success of the Center.

“The South Side is the President and Mrs. Obama’s home so he intends to not only build the Center there, but also bring opportunities to the area. The President was very eager to hear suggestions from the community members and encouraged them to continue the dialogue with his team after he left,” she said.

Those at the meeting include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Dr. Byron Brazier, Apostolic Church of God; longtime community activist Leon Finney; Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), and representatives from two South Side organizations, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and the Chicago Urban League.

Obama was last in his adopted hometown on Jan. 10 to deliver his farewell address at McCormick Place.

Former first lady Michelle Obama was not in the city for the meetings.

Since leaving office on Jan. 20, Obama has vacationed in California and in the British Virgin Islands. He started working out of his post-presidential office here full time last week.

Obama is laying the groundwork for a massive fundraising drive to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his Center, a museum, library and event complex.

Jordan Kaplan, who has been fundraising for Obama since he was a U.S. senator from Illinois, is the Chief Development Officer — or top fundraiser for the foundation.