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Obama Presidential Library Coming to Chicago


It's official. The Obama Presidential Library is coming to Chicago. It will be built on the South Side near The University of Chicago, which submitted two proposed sites. The Washington Park site is west of the university at King Drive and Garfield. The Jackson Park site is to the east on Stony Island. So what does each site offer? What will be the deciding factors in choosing a site? Joining us to discuss that and more are MarySue Barrett, the president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, Donna Hampton-Smith, president of the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce, and Louise McCurry, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council.

Watch the Barack Obama Foundation’s video announcing Chicago as the selected site for the future Barack Obama Presidential Center.


The University of Chicago won the bid for the future Barack Obama Presidential Center, beating competing bids from the University of Illinois at Chicago, New York’s Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii. In March, Chicago Tonight interviewed Anthony Clark, who authored the book The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run For Posterity & Enshrine Their Legacies and visited all 13 presidential libraries. Read an interview with Clark about the purpose of presidential libraries.

View a map of the existing presidential libraries and museums.


Read a statement issued by the Friends of the Parks:

“Friends of the Parks welcomes the Obama Presidential Library to Chicago. Our city has a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to host the Obama’s Presidential legacy on the south side where the President and First Lady have a deep connection to the community.

FOTP is disappointed that the OPL will be built in an existing park. We respectfully urge the OPL Foundation to take any and all necessary steps to ensure the impact on either park is minimal and that any construction fits with the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original design. In respect, we urge the OPL Foundation to conduct a study by outside and independent experts to assess the possible adverse environmental impacts in the construction of the OPL on open land and on the original artistic design of the park. To that end, FOTP hopes to work with the Foundation, the City and the University to find ways to protect and add to parkland and public space and public access, to offset an adverse environmental impacts or loss of open space.

Lauren Moltz, Acting Executive Director FOTP: “We admire President Obama’s record as a champion of the environment. FOTP also has a deep commitment to the protection and preservation of the public’s use of and access to open space. Friends of the Parks looks forward to working with the Foundation, the City, the Chicago Park District and the University of Chicago to protect and promote parkland, public space and public access. We would like to ensure that any impact on the historic Jackson/Washington Park will be minimal and will fit within the vision of Frederick Olmsted’ design. FOTP encourages the Obama Foundation and architects to consult with an Olmsted expert and work with the Chicago Park District, environmental groups and the community to preserve the integrity of these parks. The design of the Obama Library should maximize the use of available vacant land and underground space, and be truly “park positive” by adding parkland to the surrounding community. Furthermore, any design should upgrade the park’s facilities and preserve existing recreational uses by the public.”

We are pleased that unlike the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the OPL will apparently not be built on any “public trust” land recovered from Lake Michigan. The construction of an enormous new facility on the very margin of Lake Michigan has been and remains unacceptable to FOTP.

Moving forward, FOTP urges the Foundation to work closely with the surrounding community to address community benefit agreements, public access to these parks as well as regular communication with all stakeholders.

Friends of the Parks looks forward to working with the Obama Foundation, the City, the Chicago Park District, the University of Chicago and the community on implementing the recommendations of the open space coalition and as a consulting party for any historic preservation assessments of Washington Park or Jackson Park.

Friends of the Parks is a forty year old nonprofit parks advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, protect, improve, and promote the use of Chicago’s parks and public open spaces. We advance our programmatic, educational, and advocacy work with the support of our members, donors and volunteers, and through our governmental, community and environmental partnerships.”

Read a statement by The University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer about the foundation's announcement:

"Today the Barack Obama Foundation announced that the South Side of Chicago has been selected as the location for the Barack Obama Presidential Center, which will include the Obama Presidential Library, and the University of Chicago will collaborate in this important effort. We are deeply appreciative that President Obama, Mrs. Obama, and the Barack Obama Foundation selected Chicago’s South Side as the home for the Obama Presidential Center, a decision that creates major opportunities for the South Side and the City of Chicago. Which of the two possible South Side sites will be chosen has not yet been decided, and the Foundation will make this decision in the coming months.

The extensive work by many dedicated individuals helped make this decision possible. Our broad collaboration included the efforts of the entire South Side community and our Community Advisory Board, the commitment and actions of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the support of other elected officials, individuals, and organizations in the City and State. The process on campus began in 2012, when a faculty committee concluded that bringing the presidential library to one of our neighboring South Side communities would benefit the University and those communities.

The center and library will be independent from the University, and neither potential site is on our campus. Under federal law, presidential libraries are public institutions operated by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported by an independent foundation. The University will support efforts in community engagement, including planning, economic development, and individual and institutional collaborations. A number of faculty members from the University of Chicago as well as other universities in the Chicago area have put forward ideas for their own collaborations with the center, as have individuals from numerous non-profit organizations in the Chicago region.

We believe opening the presidential center will mark a watershed moment for the South Side and the City, serving as a catalyst for economic and cultural opportunities as well as community programming. We look forward to working with the Barack Obama Foundation, the City of Chicago, our neighbors and civic leaders to realize the distinctive potential of this presidential center."

Congresswoman Robin Kelly issued the following statement today in response to the city’s selection as the site for the future presidential library:

“I’m thrilled that President Obama has chosen Chicago’s South Side as the site for his presidential library and museum. In addition to being a premiere attraction of the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, the library will anchor an economic development boon on the South Side that will create jobs and enrich the quality of life in the area. Perhaps most importantly, the building of a monument in honor of our country’s first African-American president will have an indelible impact for generations, as a testament to both the progress and the promise of our nation.”