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Chicago taking "positive steps" to win Obama Presidential Library says Foundation chief Nesbitt

WASHINGTON–Marty Nesbitt, the chair of the Barack Obama Foundation, on Wednesday applauded the public release by the University of Chicago of details surrounding their bid for the Obama Library and Museum and the push by the city to acquire Chicago Park District land for the project.

Nesbitt’s rare public comment about the bid process comes as a source close to the foundation said last week there were “major concerns” about both Chicago bids, from the U. of C. and the University of Illinois/Chicago, leaving – at least for now – Columbia University in New York the frontrunner.

“We think the University of Chicago’s decision to release this information shows that they are moving energetically to engage with the community and put forward the strongest proposal they can, just as UIC has also worked to address any concerns around their proposal. We also believe Mayor Emanuel’s leadership on the City’s effort to work with the two Chicago schools and engage the community is a similarly positive step as the Foundation moves toward a recommendation,” Nesbitt said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the U. of C. finally made public the proposal submitted to the foundation in the Dec. 11 bid: one option for a presidential center on situated on 22 acres in Washington Park and another scenario with a 21 acre footprint in Jackson Park.

The source close to the foundation said last week the bid the U. of C. submitted did not have a clear path for the school to acquire the park district land. The source also said there were worries that new top leaders UIC were not committed to the bid. Within hours of that concern being raised, the UIC issued a statement from the current and incoming leaders reaffirming their commitment.

On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel started the ball rolling for the city to acquire the Chicago Park District sites, announcing that two hearings will be held next week to solicit input about the U. of C. proposals: at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, at Hyde Park High School, and at noon Wednesday, Jan. 14, at the Washington Park Field House.

The foundation is on track to give the University of Hawaii a “satellite” of the library, to be run in partnership with the winning bidder in New York or Chicago.

Nesbitt’s complete statement:

“All four institutions have submitted proposals that were thoughtful and strong, and the Foundation is excited by the innovative nature of each. The purpose of the Foundation’s work is to present the president and first lady with the best possible option for a future presidential center. In order to do that, the Foundation has been communicating with each institution to outline potential issues with their proposals, and all four respondents have been working to address any concerns that have been raised. We think the University of Chicago’s decision to release this information shows that they are moving energetically to engage with the community and put forward the strongest proposal they can, just as UIC has also worked to address any concerns around their proposal. We also believe Mayor Emanuel’s leadership on the City’s effort to work with the two Chicago schools and engage the community is a similarly positive step as the Foundation moves toward a recommendation.”