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July 05, 2014 5:06 PM Where to Build Obama’s Presidential Library?

By Martin Longman

I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the bidding war to host President Obama’s post-tenure presidential library. I have wondered whether he would really consider forcing people to fly all the way to Hawai’i to visit and do research. That seems unlikely to me. In any case, Lynn Sweet takes a look at one Chicago-based bid from developer Dan McCaffery, and it really is quite intriguing. For starters, it’s located on the property of a shuttered U.S. Steel plant. It closed in 1992 and its workers were among the people that a young Barack Obama tried to organize.

At first, I thought this was terrible symbolism. Going from a community organizer for laid-off steel workers to owning the factory’s property seemed like a painful message to send. But the bidder seems to understand all the sensitivities his plan would arouse.

His bid focuses on creating a green campus, providing low income housing, a farm and park to showcase Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, land for the research building, and economic development for the surrounding area. Here’s the Michelle bit:

There is also a plan in the bid to showcase Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, her signature anti-obesity and healthy eating and exercise drive. Chicago Lakeside proposes a “public park focused on food and fitness” south of the library site.
“Perhaps visitors could visit the Library, tour the farm … and stop by the year-round farmers market, all while learning about aquaponics and compost. … Put simply, the library could provide a global platform for urban food innovation,” the bid states.

As the Obamas know, access to quality healthy food is a real problem in our inner cities, including in the Southeast side of Chicago. Creating a year-round farmers market and park would solve that problem for this neighborhood, and the library could provide research that might be applied across the city and the rest of the country.

McCaffery has interesting ideas on how to involve the many universities in the area, too.

Earlier, McCaffery tried to forge a partnership with the University of Chicago in order to bolster prospects for the Lakeside site.
But the university instead submitted a bid focusing on three sites near its Hyde Park campus: around the Hyde Park High School, at 6220 S. Stony Island; the area near 55th and King Drive; and the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore.
Back to the drawing board, the McCaffery team found a solution. The bid argues that the better way for the foundation to go is to locate the library on academically neutral ground.
“A great benefit of Lakeside is the opportunity for synergistic, multi-lateral organizations to align themselves with the library and create a campus that embodies the visions and goals of the Foundation,” the bid proposed.
That way, there is the “potential for an open and inclusive platform” of a variety of Chicago-area schools, with bid rivals U. of C., Chicago State University and the University of Illinois-Chicago specifically mentioned.
McCaffery told me “we will donate more land” for the research or academic campus near the library, as an incentive to lure universities wanting to establish a Chicago outpost to run programs with curriculum ties to the library or other collaborations.

The final bit arguing in favor of this bid is its scenic location on the lake with a fantastic view of the skyline. After reading the whole article, it seemed to me that it might not be such a bad idea after all.

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