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University of Chicago, UIC Submit Bids for Obama Library

By  Sam Cholke and Mina Bloom | December 11, 2014 3:33pm | Updated on December 12, 2014 8:53am

 The University of Chicago put forward three sites for the Obama library Thursday that are close to Washington Park, Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.
The University of Chicago put forward three sites for the Obama library Thursday that are close to Washington Park, Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.
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University of Chicago

HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago’s proposal for the Barack Obama presidential library has officially been submitted, and the bid includes all three sites that have been the subject of intense speculation since May.

The University of Illinois at Chicago's bid, meanwhile, includes sites on the Near West Side campus as well as a new "town square"in North Lawndale, a proposal that would cap part of the Eisenhower and feature an "elevated greenway."

The University of Chicago confirmed that the application went in at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday. 

The possible sites for the library include:

• Garfield Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive near Washington Park

• 63rd Street and Stony Island Avenue near Jackson Park

• 71st Street and South Shore Drive near the South Shore Cultural Center

A representative from the university declined to provide any more specifics about the three site options given the Obama Foundation, which is in charge of recommending a location to President Barack Obama.

“All three would offer the potential for significant new infrastructure investments that would benefit Chicago residents as well as library users and visitors,” said Jeremy Manier, a spokesman for the university. “The investments would include improvements for South Side transportation and adjoining parkland, resulting in greater utilization and public benefit.”

Ald. Leslie Hairston said she is in support of two of the locations in her ward, but said the university has not offered her many details about the locations near South Shore or Jackson Park.

“We’ve talked about it generally, but the specifics, no,” Hairston said.

Parks advocates said they have not been told specifics yet but believe at least some of the options involve using a considerable amount of parkland.

At a November meeting of the South Shore Cultural Center Advisory Council, council members and university officials mostly discussed sites closer to 67th Street and South Shore Drive for the library, according to Gary Ossewaarde, a member of the council.

University officials are scheduled to meet with the Jackson Park Advisory Council to discuss the library in January.

Council President Louis McCurry said at the park’s November meeting that she believes the university is most interested in a stretch of the park just north of Hayes Drive along Stony Island Avenue.

Cecilia Butler, president of the Washington Park Advisory Council, was not immediately available for comment, but has said in the past that she has not been approached about any sites in the park.

The university owns more than seven acres of property directly west of the park along Garfield Boulevard that Butler and others in the neighborhood believe to be the location the university is proposing. The properties abut another three acres of land owned by the city.

In a letter to the community Thursday, Susan Sher, who is leading the university efforts to get the library, and Derek Douglas, university vice president of civic engagement, said the support of communities around the university helped create a strong proposal.

“With your help, we believe we have made a strong case for the South Side as the place to honor the work and legacy of the president and first lady,” Sher and Douglas write. “However, we take nothing for granted.”

The University of Illinois at Chicago also officially submitted its bid for the library Thursday.

The proposal includes two sites: a 23-acre city-owned parcel in North Lawndale and a site on the UIC Campus at the corner of Halsted and Harrison Streets. 

The North Lawndale site is bounded by Roosevelt Road and Kostner, Kildare and Fifth avenues. The proposal calls for the reopening of the CTA Blue Line’s Kostner station.

The proposal envisions the use of both sites, though they can each serve as stand-alone sites, the statement said.

With the library, the university hopes to form a new town square in North Lawndale, and build a visitors center and an academic center on the UIC campus.

The university hopes this will create "an east-west cultural and civic corridor extending from the lakefront Museum Campus through UIC to North Lawndale," according to a release.

Columbia University in New York and the University of Hawaii also submitted bids.

In New York, Columbia University aims to build the library in West Harlem. Obama is a Columbia grad.

In Hawaii, the plan calls for a "dramatic view of his hometown's famed Diamond Head volcanic center," according to an AP report.  The 8 acre spot, between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, would be powered by solar enegery and support vegetable gardens on site.

The Barack Obama Foundation has said it will make a decision on where the library will be located in early 2015.

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