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How Chicago's South Side Won the Obama Presidential Library

    How Chicago's South Side Won the Obama Presidential Library

    After much wrangling and speculation, it's finally official that the estimated half billion dollar Barack Obama Presidential Library will be located on Chicago's South Side. Here's how it all went down.

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    The Competition Was On

    Four sites were initially under consideration for the Barack Obama Presidential Library: the University of Chicago on Chicago’s South Side; the University of Illinois, Chicago; Columbia University (Obama’s undergraduate alma mater); and a beachview location at the University of Hawaii (pictured), the state he first called home. U of H selected three design teams: Allied Works Architecture (pictured), Snohetta/WCIT Architecture and MOS/Workshop-HI. Ferraro Choi. 

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    UIC Entered the Ring

    The University of Chicago proposed two sites: the first at the Western edge of Washington Park bordered by Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the west and Garfield Boulevard on the south. The second proposed area was at Jackson Park along Stony Island Avenue (envisioned here), part of the Woodlawn neighborhood, bordered by Stony Island Avenue on the west. According to the University, which commissioned a report by Anderson Economic Group, the library’s estimated annual impact would be at least $220M, bringing 900 permanent jobs, 3,280 construction jobs, and attracting about 800,000 visitors annually.

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    3. University of Illinois at Chicago Entered its Proposal

    Not to be outdone, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s presented a two-in-one proposal in the Windy City (rendered here), although both sites could stand alone. The Mayor Rahm Emanuel-approved 23-acre city-owned plot of land at North Lawndale would also include the reopening of the Blue Line’s Kostner station. The second site and extension was located on the UIC Campus at the corner of Halsted and Harrison Streets, situated above the Blue Line UIC-Halsted Station.

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    4. Parkland Controversy

    The Chicago public aired its views, as did the Friends of the Parks, which wrote and presented a rather scathing editorial in the Chicago Sun Times, calling the proposals “confiscations” of parkland (Jackson park is pictured here) citing their architectural history; both parks are rare Midwestern commissions designed by Olmsted and Calvert Vaux—and Washington Park ranks with New York City’s Central Park and Prospect Park. However, the Chicago Park District OK'd the use of parkland for the new library, and the Metropolitan Planning Council expressed satisfaction with the University of Chicago’s proposals located in areas that were “in neighborhoods that will benefit from economic development and enhanced amenities.”

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    5. So...Who's the Architect?

    And... drum roll... Obama announced (officially) that the library will be coming to the South Side and the Obama Foundation will partner with the University of Chicago. The library will bring $31M annually in the neighborhood near the site,  according to the Anderson Economic Group’s report, and support 41 new restaurants and retail outlets. Next up, an architect will need to be selected and The Chicago Tribune is already musing that Tanzanian-born architect David Adjaye will be named. Adjaye’s resume includes designs for London’s Stephen Lawrence Center, the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo. Most notably, a JV of Freelon Adjaye Bond and SmithGroup designed the $500M, 322,600 SF National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian (pictured here), currently under construction.