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Foundation to name Chicago home of Obama Presidential Library on May 12

WASHINGTON — The Sun-Times has learned that the Barack Obama Foundation will announce on May 12 that the Obama library, museum and presidential center will be in Chicago.

Multiple sources confirmed on Monday that the Chicago-based Obama Foundation, led by Obama friend Marty Nesbitt, is planning an announcement event a week from Tuesday.

The announcement will be made on the South Side, the home of the winning bidder, the University of Chicago, and will cap a process that started on Jan. 31, 2014, when the foundation was created.

The first bid documents were released on March 20, 2014, with the field cut on June 17 to four finalists: the U. of C., the University of Illinois at Chicago, with sites proposed on the West Side; the University of Hawaii in Honolulu; and Columbia University in New York. The four schools submitted bids on Dec. 11.

The foundation is still weighing an announcement on whether the Obama complex will be built in Washington Park or Jackson Park.

Through this past year, much of the focus in the city has been over the rival UIC and U. of C. proposals, with less visible public debate between Jackson and Washington Parks.

Both parks are near economically depressed communities. A priority of the foundation, which works at the behest of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle, is to make the Obama complex an economic engine strong enough to revive its surrounding community.

An influential South Side voice, the Rev. Leon Finney, president of The Woodlawn Development Corporation, told the Sun-Times on Monday that the “better place” for the Obama complex is Jackson Park, along Stony Island Avenue.

Finney said the Jackson Park location “makes more sense” because it is closer to the Museum of Science and Industry, already one of Chicago’s main tourist attractions. Jackson Park is much closer to Lake Michigan and would be more convenient for tourists visiting the museum campus on the near South Side: the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium.

“It would be a major economic stimulus for Woodlawn and South Shore,” Finney said, “both of which can use an economic shot in the arm.”

With a strong tourism base, the economic impact would eventually work its way west, to Washington Park, he said. Finney, who also is the pastor of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, 4100 S. King Dr., served on the Chicago Plan Commission for 32 years.

Last February, the Obama foundation conducted a poll in which respondents were asked about Washington and Jackson parks.

Park preservation groups have been protesting the use of either park, designed by famed landscape architect Frederic Law Olmsted. Jackson Park has been more altered through the years than Washington Park.

Last Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill to make it harder to legally challenge building the Obama development in a Chicago park.

The foundation is also expected to kick up fundraising, which had been put on a back burner, once the Chicago site is official.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, will be sworn in to a another term May 18 and the formal designation of Chicago ahead of time lets Emanuel start his second term with a big win.