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Obama library bids submitted: UIC pitches two-site plan

WASHINGTON — It’s down to Chicago versus New York strongly competing for the entire Barack Obama presidential library and museum with Hawaii hedging its bet and also pitching a presidential center as four schools submitted bids on Thursday.

The University of Hawaii, the University of Illinois/Chicago, the University of Chicago and Columbia University in New York presented proposals to the Chicago-headquartered Barack Obama Foundation.


RELATED: For all the Chicago Sun-Times stories about the Obama Presidential Library and Museum click HERE


Hawaii, the state where Obama was born, submitted a bid to host a library and museum in order to be in a position to get the whole thing if that is what President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle want – but pragmatic project planners in Hawaii also know that a facility on the mainland is more realistic and so emphasized the creation of an expansive “center” in their proposal.

Both UIC and U. of Chicago confirmed they have discussed possible collaborations with the U. of Hawaii.

The next step is for the foundation, led by Marty Nesbitt, a close friend of President Barack Obama’s – who has been working behind the scenes with bidders – to evaluate the different plans and present an analysis to the president and first lady, who make the decision.

The foundation, created Jan. 31, sent out bid documents to potential bidders on March 20, with the field cut to four finalists Sept. 15. A decision is expected early next year.

The bids submitted on Thursday reflect the wide-ranging “asks” in the “Request for Proposals” the foundation issued in September – for sites, programs, creation of an academic institute, community partnerships and very important, how the facility could bolster the local economy and more.

UIC in its 85-page bid is suggesting the museum, library, an academic institute and a visitors center — be constructed at two West Side locations.

“A presidential library and museum brings a wealth of academic resources and opportunities for neighborhood engagement, betterment and economic growth,” said UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares in a statement.

The UIC plan calls for:

*The main library and museum would be on a 23-acre vacant parcel in North Lawndale, owned by the city of Chicago, bounded by Roosevelt Road and Kostner, Kildare and Fifth avenues.

To bolster the bid, UIC said the city would reopen the CTA Blue Line’s Kostner station for the facility.

And UIC, competing with the much wealthier private Columbia and the U. of Chicago, announced a $5 million pledge from The Steans Family Foundation, which focuses much of its work in Lawndale.

*The second site would be at the corner of Harrison and Halsted on the West Side UIC campus. There, an “O-4 Institute” for academic-civic collaboration” would be created with the name standing for “optimism, outreach, opportunity and one world, extending to the four corners of the world.”

UIC said in a statement, “the proposal envisions forming a new town square in North Lawndale, with the library and museum serving as a hub to generate commercial and residential development. The defunct “Sears line” viaduct that enters the middle of the site from the east would set up a campus spine along a new bike trail and pedestrian corridor.”

Neither Columbia U. or the U. of Chicago disclosed information about details in their respective bids.

The U. of Chicago publicly for the first time confirmed the three South Side sites it is proposing: the South Shore Cultural Center, near 71st and South Shore Drive; around 55th and King Drive, which would include land the university owns some of Washington Park and 63rd and Stony Island Ave., in Jackson Park.

“All three areas offer extensive opportunities for economic development, civic partnerships and cultural enrichment. In addition, all three would offer the potential for significant new infrastructure investments that would benefit Chicago residents as well as library users and visitors,” the U. of Chicago said in a statement.

“The investments would include improvements for South Side transportation and adjoining parkland, resulting in greater utilization and public benefit. The proposed sites also would place the Obama Presidential Library in proximity to Museum Campus South, a collaboration of seven South side museums that showcase contemporary and modern art, architecture, theater, performance, historic collections, archeology, science and technology,” the U. of Chicago said.

The Hawaiian site is eight scenic acres in Honolulu, with a sweeping ocean view, not far from the school.

A spokesman for the Hawaii bid told the Sun-Times, “Presidential centers have many components: archive, museum, think tank or research center, education programs, executive offices for the First Family, event space, and Foundation initiatives.

“All of these components can be located in one city or in more than one city. That’s up to the President. We are prepared to host on our own or in partnership with Chicago or New York.”

The foundation is very interested in constructing a green facility. In its bid – as reflected in material on its website — Hawaii said, “The site can showcase an inspiring building that will serve as a laboratory for urban sustainability.”

The U. of Hawaii center would focus on developing youth leaders and bringing people together “to solve global problems.” The school would create a Global Youth Leadership Academy, an institute to study a variety of issues, a center for community organizing — an acknowledgement of an important aspect of Obama’s life and a visitors center.

“President Obama is part of our Island family,” said Hawaii Gov. David Ige. “We humbly suggest that Hawaii is the best place to build his presidential center. With our rich cultural heritage, mature visitor industry, and Asia-Pacific ties, we believe we can help President Obama create an institution that will carry forward his important work on a global stage.”