University Submits Collaborative Proposal for Barack Obama Presidential Library on South Side
6/18/2014, 12:46 p.m.
After months of consultation with a broad set of community and university partners, the University of Chicago submited a proposal on June 16 to the Barack Obama Foundation in support of locating the Barack Obama Presidential Library on Chicago’s South Side.
A U Chicago faculty committee that examined presidential libraries concluded last year that it would be in the interest of the University to bring such a project to the South Side. The June 16 submission responded to the foundation’s request for qualifications, issued in March, which asked interested organizations for a range of supporting information.
Building the potential for collaborations around a presidential library has been a key part of the University’s effort. In the course of dozens of meetings, community members and organizations have expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the potential of a presidential library to make a substantial economic impact on the South Side, and to create a vital cultural destination drawing visitors from around the globe.
“We believe this could be an historic moment for the South Side,” said Susan Sher, senior advisor to President Robert J. Zimmer. Sher is coordinating the University’s activities around the presidential library project, inviting partners from across Chicago and beyond to generate ideas for how the library could make a distinctive impact on the South Side — and how the community could provide unique opportunities for the library.
The University is proposing that the presidential library be located off-campus, in one of the neighboring communities that could greatly benefit from the economic development the library would bring. An economic impact study that the University commissioned estimated that the library project would create 1,900 new, permanent jobs, with $220 million in annual economic impact and 800,000 annual visitors. The report also projected that in the neighborhoods surrounding the library, the development could support 30 new restaurants, 11 new retail outlets and a new hotel.
Federal law provides that presidential libraries are independent, non-partisan institutions managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. President Obama’s library will be constructed with funds donated to the non-profit Barack Obama Foundation, which has announced a phased process for choosing a site. After the RFQ phase, the foundation has said it will issue a Request for Proposals to the most competitive applicants, with final selection of a site in early 2015. The decision of where to place the library is up to President Obama and Mrs. Obama.
Although the specific nature of programming at the library will be determined by the library’s leadership at a later date, the foundation’s RFQ indicated an interest in developing partnerships with multiple organizations. The University has convened meetings with numerous groups that have expressed interest in participating, and those talks have yielded ideas from a wide range of organizations.
To highlight a few of the many promising ideas, some of the potential collaborators came together recently to discuss how a presidential library could make a difference on the South Side while educating and inspiring young people from around the world. The panelists were Torrey L. Barrett, Executive Director of the KLEO Community Family Life Center; Dr. Byron T. Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God and Chairman of the Network of Woodlawn; James G. Keane, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago; David R. Mosena, President and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry; Kamau Murray, President and Founder of the XS Tennis and Education Foundation; and Sophia Shaw, President and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden.