Land for Obama Library Sparks Debate Among Residents - NBC Chicago

Land for Obama Library Sparks Debate Among Residents

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    Land for Obama Library Sparks Debate Among Residents

    At least one of the bids for the Obama Presidential Library may be in jeopardy. NBC5's Katie Kim reports. (Published Monday, Jan. 12, 2015)

    At least one of the bids for the Obama Presidential Library may be in jeopardy but community activists are working to keep Chicago’s chances alive.

    The University of Chicago wants to develop parts of Washington and Jackson Parks as the site for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum, the problem is they don't own the land and not everyone wants to see the library in the proposed space.

    The presidential library bids from both University of Chicago and the University of Illinois Chicago ran into trouble in January after the foundation that's handling the applications noted that none of the bids were attached to an actual parcel of land.

    Signs outside local businesses make it clear many in Hyde Park want the presidential library in their neighborhood.

    But there are some concerns about the University of Chicago’s proposed location of Washington and Jackson Parks because the university doesn't own the park land, the Chicago Park District does.

    The city and park district scheduled community hearings this week to discuss transferring the land to the city but not everyone is on board. The group Friends of the Parks believes the city needs to protect its open space.

    “Our concern is really the erosion of park land, particularly in a park that has such an amazing historical perspective,” Friends of the Parks president Cassandra Francis said.

    But many South Side residents said their community needs the library badly.

    “It will bring jobs,” community member Ghian Foreman said. “It will bring economic development to an area of the city that is void of economic development.”

    The University of Illinois at Chicago campus is also vying for the project, which would include areas in North Lawndale and its land is ready to go.

    “Having this [library] to drive new business and new housing within the North Lawndale community in particular would be a great benefit,” University of Illinois at Chicago librarian Mary Case said.

    In the end, the competing schools agree there's only one place the library should be.

    “We all believe it belongs in Chicago,” Case said.

    The park district is holding two meetings to discuss of the University of Chicago location, the first one Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Hyde Park Academy High School and another Wednesday at noon at Washington Park Field House.

    The Barack Obama Foundation is still reviewing all four plans and it expects the Obamas to make their final pick early this year.

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