“I strongly believe the Obama Presidential Library would be ideal for one of our neighboring communities on the South Side of Chicago,” Zimmer said in a statement released by the university Friday afternoon. “Such a location would reflect the personal and professional lives of the Obamas, as well as their commitments to society.”
“With President Obama’s deep roots here in the city — his hometown and where he launched his public life — Chicago is undeniably a natural fit for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum," Emanuel said. "Though we’re excited to welcome the president home, we are not resting on our laurels and will put forward a competitive proposal so that his choice is an easy one.”
Zimmer’s statement on Friday suggests that if the mayor wants a single bid from the city, the University of Chicago wants to be at the center of that.
“A presidential library would mark a watershed moment for the South Side, catalyzing significant and sustained economic opportunity in an area poised to make the most of such promise,” Zimmer said in the statement. “It would bring cultural and programmatic opportunities for all of Chicago’s residents and visitors.”
Zimmer said the university is committed to working with the city on the bid for the library.
The University of Chicago’s bid coincides with formation Friday of the Barack H. Obama Foundation, which is tasked with finding a site for the library.
Martin Nesbitt, a close friend of the Obamas and who lives close to the Obama’s family home in Kenwood, leads the foundation. Nesbitt served as national treasurer of for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns and is a graduate of the University of Chicago.
“The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record, and our mission is to build a library that tells President Obama’s remarkable story in an interactive way that will inspire future generations to become involved in public service,” Nesbitt said in a prepared statement Friday.
Also on the Obama Foundation board are Julianna Smoot, the national finance director for the Obama for America campaign in 2008 and who served multiple posts in the Obama Administration, and J. Kevin Poorman, CEO of PSP Capital Partners, the firm founded by Obama’s Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
The foundation expects to make a final decision in May 2015 and will start soliciting bids for a location in February.
Several groups in Chicago have expressed interest in attracting the Obama Presidential Library.
A group led by former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones is hoping to bring the library to Roseland and Pullman, where the president started his career as a community organizer. The group has put forward Chicago State University as a potential site in the neighborhood.
Community groups in Bronzeville are hoping to lure the library to the former site of the Michael Reese Hospital. The city has hired planners from Skimore, Owens and Merrill to come up with ideas for redeveloping the 48 vacant acres owned by the city. At public meetings, planners have said the site would be a good location for the presidential library, but is better suited for a casino.
Columbia University in New York and Hawaii are also expected to make a bid for the library.