Locals take control of presidential library bid

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer announced his support for a library housing artifacts from Barack Obama’s presidency located on the South Side of Chicago on Friday.

Zimmer’s statement came on the same day that the formal process of finding a location for the library and museum began.

The Barack H. Obama Foundation was launched Friday, headed by Kenwood resident and Obama friend Martin Nesbitt. The foundation’s goal is to find a location and develop the monument to the Obama presidency.

Nesbitt said no specific site, institution, city or state has an advantage over another at this time. The site will be chosen on merits and, ultimately, by the First Couple.

Zimmer released a statement saying, “I strongly believe the Obama Presidential Library would be ideal for one of our neighboring communities on the South Side of Chicago. Such a location would reflect the personal and professional lives of the Obamas, as well as their commitments to society.”

The U. of C. has been quietly lobbying for the library for more than a year.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as Nesbitt, have strong ties to the university.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, said earlier this week that he wants the city of Chicago to make a unified bid for the library, without mentioning a specific site or organization.

A request for qualifications is expected to be released by the Foundation in the coming days with a Request for Proposal to be released in May and a decision made by 2015.

Obama’s last day in the Oval Office is on Jan. 20, 2017.

The price tag for the library is estimated to be around $500 million. Under federal laws presidential libraries are non-profit foundations that raise funds for construction and large operating endowments before the National Archives and Records Administration take over operation.

Other strong contenders for the site include the University of Illinois at Chicago, which has made clear it wants to lobby to host the museum, the former U.S. Steel South Works, the empty 37-acre former Michael Reese Hospital Site, Columbia University in New York City and the University of Hawaii.

l.welbers@hpherald.com