Politics & Government

Chicago, New York and Honolulu being considered for Obama library

A group of Barack Obama’s longtime friends and supporters announced Monday that it had narrowed down the list of possible locations for a multimillion-dollar presidential library.

The Barack Obama Foundation asked four schools -- the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University and University of Hawaii -- to submit specific library proposals by Dec. 11. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will consider them early next year.

“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,” Board Chairman Martin Nesbitt.

Thirteen organizations had submit proposals to build a facility that will be much more than a library -- part museum, part education center and part archive. There will be a gift store and restaurant as well.

At least five were based in Illinois, where Obama launched his political career, and one each in Hawaii, his birth state, and New York, where he graduated from college. Illinois is thought to be the front-runner, though Hawaii has been lobbying for the library for years.

The request for proposal, available on the foundation’s website, asks the univerisities to submit a formal plan that includes details on management and organization, site development plans, community partnerships, potential for academic collaboration, marketing and attraction strategy and information about any financial and other commitments from the host or other partners.

Donations and the federal government pay for the cost of presidential libraries. The state and local government may choose to contribute, though the Illinois General Assembly recently scrapped plans to commit $100 million to any potential project after some lawmakers grumbled.

Obama has indicated he wants his library to become an anchor for economic development while reflecting the values and priorities of his public service career: expanding economic opportunity and promoting peace, justice and dignity throughout the world.

A pair of studies conducted in Chicago and Honolulu estimates a library could generate hundreds of million of dollars annually, create nearly 2,000 permanent jobs and lure up to 800,000 visitors each year.

Thirteen presidential libraries are scattered across the nation, from Boston (John F. Kennedy) to Yorba Linda, Calif. (Richard Nixon). The most recent, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, opened last summer on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Ronald Reagan’s library in Simi Valley, Calif., is the most popular, with about 400,000 visitors annually. But Obama’s could very well surpass those numbers because of his historic tenure as the first African-American president in the United States.

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