CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama announced officially Tuesday that the future Obama presidential library will be coming to Chicago.
Columbia University had made a bid to bring the library to New York, but the University of Chicago ultimately won the bid for the Barack Obama Presidential Center, CBS Chicago reported.
“All the strands of my life came together, and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago. That’s where I was able to apply that early idealism to try to work in communities in public service. That’s where I met my wife. That’s where my children were born,” President Obama said in a YouTube video. “And the people there, the community, the lessons that I learned, they’re all based right in this few square miles where we’ll be able to now give something back and bring the world back home after this incredible journey.”
Obama Foundation chairman Marty Nesbitt acknowledged the competition for the library was always Chicago’s to lose, but he said the foundation still wants a relationship with the three finalists that were not chosen – Columbia, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Hawaii.
The decision to bring the library to Chicago has been known for nearly two weeks, as sources close to the selection process revealed in late April that Chicago’s South Side would get the facility, CBS Chicago reported.
The complex, officially named the Barack Obama Presidential Center, was expected to cost more than $500 million, funded by private donations to the Barack Obama Foundation.
Nesbitt said the library complex could open as soon as 2020, but first the foundation must choose a specific location, and an architect.
Nesbitt said it’s too early to know if the library would be built in Chicago’s Washington Park or Jackson Park, the two sites proposed by the U of C, CBS Chicago reported. Washington Park is located just west of the U of C campus, while Jackson Park – also home to Chicago’s renowned Museum of Science and Industry – is located along Lake Michigan just to the east.
“We have a lot of work to do to figure that out. We think they’re both terrific sites. There’s just some physical due diligence that needs to be done; from a real estate perspective on the land, and conditions,” Nesbitt said. “Provided that that process ends up with both sites being equal, then there will be some qualitative issues that we’ll have to figure out.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the intention to make the complex a center for community action, CBS Chicago reported.
“The library will catalog the past, but it will also be a catalyst to the future,” he said.
Columbia never revealed a great deal about its unsuccessful bid for the library, and declined to answer questions back in December. But in a statement, the university said last year that it had wanted to put the library in Manhattanville, where Columbia is currently expanding with a satellite campus.
People familiar with Columbia’s proposal, who weren’t authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity, said in December that Columbia also had been considering hosting just a part of the broader library project. Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed to indicate that the city could be satisfied under that scenario when he told reporters at the White House in December, “We would obviously love to host a piece of it.”
The Obama Presidential Center is expected to open its doors in 2020 or 2021.
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