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The Obamas Unveil A Bold Vision For Presidential Library

A rendering of the design for the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago's Jackson Park

Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were in Chicago yesterday to unveil renderings for the Obama Presidential Library. Obama said discussions for the design with architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien centered on the functionality of the building in the future. Obama said he wants the center to be "something that [is] alive, a hub for the community and the city and the country" that kids in the future "aren't getting dragged to it for a field trip."

The center has the potential to be one of the largest and most expensive developments ever to hit the South Side, with an estimated cost of at least $500M. The Obamas said at the unveiling that they would donate $2M for summer jobs and apprenticeships. The library will feature three buildings with a total footprint of nearly 225K SF. They will be on an open campus intended to re-establish the South Side's connections to Lake Michigan and the Jackson Park lagoon, allowing visitors to flow seamlessly into Jackson Park.

A model rendering of the Obama Presidential Library

The Obamas' commitment to sustainability and green space is reflected in the design. The center will be LEED Platinum certified. One of the biggest revelations yesterday was the announcement that Cornell Avenue, one of the main arteries connecting Woodlawn to Lake Shore Drive and South Shore, will be closed from 60th to 67th streets to accommodate the center's construction. The street closure is expected to add as much as five acres of parkland to the campus, and Obama said traffic impact studies are already underway.

The center's open design will also serve as the linchpin of a South Side Museum Campus that will connect the center to the Museum of Science and Industry and the DuSable Museum of African-American History.