Mayor supports UIC bid for Obama Presidential Library

UIC campus and Chicago skyline

UIC is one of four universities vying for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum. FInal proposals are due Thursday. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel showed his support for UIC’s and North Lawndale’s bid to become the future home of the Obama Presidential Library and Museum in a letter written to the Barack Obama Foundation.

“The City of Chicago has undoubtedly played an integral role in the life and career of President Barack Obama,” Emanuel wrote in a letter dated Nov. 21 to Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation.

“A city of vibrant neighborhoods made strong by our diverse residents, I can think of no better home for the Library. Chicago champions culture, community and change, and alongside UIC and North Lawndale community partners, will do its very best to ensure that the President’s dream lives on.”

As one of four finalists for the future museum, UIC must submit a final detailed proposal by Thursday. The other finalists are University of Chicago, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii.

UIC has proposed three sites: Harrison Field at Harrison and Halsted streets; a location in the Illinois Medical District at Taylor Street and Ashland Avenue; and a North Lawndale site in partnership with the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee, just south of the Eisenhower Expressway and the CTA Blue Line.

In his letter, Emanuel outlined the ways the city could support the UIC-North Lawndale proposal, including:

  • ensure a quick and cost-effective conveyance of land in the North Lawndale community and rezoning the site for multifaceted use
  • collaborate with the North Lawndale community on the planning process
  • reopen the Kostner CTA Blue Line station and partnering with city transportation organizations to improve access to and from the site
  • offer grants to small business owners who open shops in North Lawndale
  • encourage partnerships with Chicago Public Schools and local community colleges.

“The City of Chicago is committed to preserving President Obama’s legacy of optimism and hope for generations to come,” Emanuel wrote.

The Obama Foundation will share its recommendations with the president and first lady, who will make the final decision in early 2015. The Obama Presidential Library will be part of the presidential library system, which includes 13 libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. It will preserve and make available to the public the papers, records and other historical materials that document the lives of the president, his family, associates and administration. The library would operate through an endowment provided by the foundation and federal funding.

Having support from the mayor makes the UIC-North Lawndale bid more competitive, said university librarian Mary Case, co-chair of the UIC Obama Presidential Library Steering Committee.

“The letter demonstrates that the mayor is strongly committed to supporting the Obama Presidential Library and Museum on the West Side,” Case said. “This will assure the Obama Foundation that processes for land transfer, support for infrastructure improvements and facilitation of new parkland creation will be forthcoming from the city.”

Having the mayor’s support is a great accomplishment, said UIC student trustee Danielle Leibowitz.

“Reading the mayor’s letter of support makes the prospect of UIC-North Lawndale getting the library all the more real,” said Leibowitz, a senior in the teaching of mathematics. “UIC has been working diligently throughout this process to bring in as many supporters as possible.

“I am proud of all that we have accomplished thus far, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of this process will unfold.”

The steering committee is working hard on the final bid for Thursday’s deadline, Case said.

“Our design colleagues are now working full throttle to pull the pieces all together in what will be a fabulous presentation.”

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