Obama library finalists: U of Chicago, UIC, Hawaii, Columbia

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WASHINGTON — The Barack Obama Foundation on Monday announced the finalists for President Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum: the University of Chicago; the University of Illinois at Chicago;Columbia University and the University of Hawaii.

The Universityof Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago offered the foundation a choice of severalsites in their proposals.The foundation on Monday did not pick among the various specificlocationsthey were offered.

The Chicago-based foundation also released a “request for proposal,” providing for the first time much more detail about what President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle have in mind for the institution tohold the documents from the Obamas’ White House tenure; present exhibits and programs about the Obama administration and provide a home for their future activities.

One significant item in the RFP: bidders must provide a “vision” for an“academic collaboration that willenhance the pursuit of the President’s initiatives beyond 2017. The academiccollaboration will include an Institute and possibly a degree-seeking program. An Institute may include academicresearch, undergraduate coursework offered in collaboration with existing academic departments, infrastructure toachieve real world impact and/or collaboration with partner universities.”

The Clinton School of Public Service andThe George W. Bush Institute were created as partnerships with the libraries and museums of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In addition, the RFP asks the bidders describe how they wouldprovide office space for Obama, Mrs. Obama and staff starting in 2017, when Obama leaves office.

The RFP is due on Dec. 11 and includes a request to detail financial committments. The board will present recommendations to the First Couple in early 2015.

“We were amazed by the quality of responses to our Request for Qualifications and we are grateful to every institution that expressed interest in carrying President Obama’s legacy forward,” said Foundation Board Chair Martin Nesbitt in a statement.“These four potential partners have come the farthest in meeting our criteria and have each demonstrated a strong vision for the future Obama Presidential Library. We look forward to working with each institution to further refine their proposals over the coming months, and to presenting our recommendations to the President and First Lady early next year.”

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Last March 20, the foundation told potential bidders in broad terms what they needed to put on the table in a “request for qualifications” document due last June 16. By that June deadline, seven major bidders delivered voluminous proposals to the foundation at 300 E. Randolph, which houses the offices forNesbitt, the Obama close friend who the foundation leader.Last June, after the bid deadline,the foundation said, “we will run a level and fair process to evaluate how well each response captures the vision and goals of the future Obama Presidential Library, and based on what we see, the Foundation will identify a short-list of potential partners to receive a Request for Proposal later this summer.”

The first couple were offered a dozen sites from the major bidders — from Honolulu to Harlem to Hyde Park and other Chicago locations — for their Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

The bids emphasized Obama’s singular place in African-American history and how the facility would trigger economic renewal and community engagement.

From Chicago the bidders werethe University of Chicago, offering three South Side sites near its Hyde Park campus; the University of Illinois at Chicago with three West Side sites near its campus; Chicago State University with several sites on the footprint of its far South Side campus; developer Dan McCaffery offering land at his Lakeside project,the former U.S. Steel South Works site on the Southeast side and a Bronzeville community group with a site at the former Michael Reese Hospital.

In addition, the University of Hawaii pitched a Honolulu site and Columbia University in New York offered a site near Harlem. I reported last week that the foundation eliminated the Lakeside and Bronzeville proposals.

University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said in a statement,“Today’s news affirms our strong belief that the library could be transformative for the heart of the South Side, bringing new economic and cultural opportunities to all of Chicago.We will move forward with a bid that honors the rich history and traditions of the South Side and the promising future of our city.”

Columbia University said in a statement, “We are honored that the Barack Obama Foundation has named Columbia as a finalist in the site selection process for the Barack Obama Presidential Library. We now look forward to responding to the Obama Foundation’s Request for Proposals in the next stage the process.

“We would be delighted to have the President and Mrs. Obama join our University community after leaving the White House, and believe that Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus and New York City would provide a dynamic platform for a post-presidency engaged in the vital issues of our time, while adding to our core mission of teaching, research and public service. We also appreciate the support this idea has received from our City, State and Congressional officials, as well as local civic organizations. So we will pursue this opportunity with energy and pride on behalf of not only the University, but of the City and community we call home.”

UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares said in a statement, “As Chicago’s only public research university and one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, UIC is the ideal institution to host the Obama Presidential Library and Museum, and we are honored to be selected to participate in the next phase of this process.

“UIC and President Obama share a common goal — a more open and inclusive world. As a land-grant institution, UIC makes it possible for aspiring students, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status, to obtain a high-quality education at an affordable cost,” Allen-Meares said. “Only a research university with a public mission can extend the president’s legacy to all who could benefit from it, locally and worldwide.”

“We are thrilled to advance to the next stage of dialogue and planning with the Barack Obama Foundation,” said David Lassner, University of Hawai‘i President in a statement. “The University of Hawai‘i will take the lead in developing a formal response to the Foundation’s Request for Proposals and will work in close collaboration with the state, city, and other community partners.”“Hawai‘i envisions an action-oriented institution that not only honors the legacy of the forty-fourth presidency, but also highlights Hawai‘i’s multicultural heritage, forges collaborative solutions to global problems, and attracts and inspires the next generation of leaders,” said Hawai‘i Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, who has led the local effort on behalf of the Governor’s administration.”

The U. of Chicago bid proposed sites near its Hyde Park campus, nearHyde Park High School, at 6220 S. Stony Island; the area near 55th and King Drive; and the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore.The UIC bid offered sites near its West Side campus and the university’s close-by Medical Center campus plus onein the Lawndale neighborhood, a parcelboarderedby West Fifth Avenue, Roosevelt Road, Kostner Avenue and Kildare Avenue.

The winning bid must achieve linked economic development by “anchoring public and private investment,” “contribute to a cleaner, safer planet,” “create a new international destination,” and perhaps in a hat tip to Mrs. Obama’s signature campaign for healthy eating and exercise, support “a healthy lifestyle.” In addition, the RFQ asked for ideas on howmaximize the economic power of the library. Demonstrating how the library can be an “economic engine” for the surrounding area — by attracting public and private investments — is a key requirement for the bidders.

The other board members are Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s half-sister; David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and former White House Senior adviser and J. Kevin Poorman, J. Kevin Poorman, the Wilmette businessman who took over several companies run by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when she stepped down to join Obama’s cabinet.

Former foundation board member Julianna Smoot, who was a co-chair of the Obama 2012 re-election bid and the 2008 National Finance Director, stepped down from the panel in order to focus on the massive fundraising the foundation must do to raise an endowment—projected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars– for the library and museum. Presidential libraries are supported in part by the federal government and by private, non-profit organizations.

In May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to the foundation a package of infrastructure improvements the city would make if the facility is located on the South Side.

The Obama Library and Museum would be the 14th in the federal presidential library system. The George W. Bush presidential center in Dallas, opened in May, 2013.

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