Obama Foundation Announces Presidential Library Coming to South Side of Chicago

Both the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago placed bids, but the final site has not yet been revealed

It's official: Barack Obama's presidential library is coming to the South Side of Chicago.

The Barack Obama Foundation made the announcement early Tuesday that the city would be home to the future Barack Obama Presidential Center, capping an intense campaign for the library.

Officials are expected to discuss the decision at an event Tuesday afternoon. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the chairman of the foundation's board are expected to attend.

Both the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago had placed bids for the library, and while the University of Chicago will collaborate with the foundation on the center, the final site has not yet been revealed. The foundation said it will look to enter into an agreement with the city in the coming months to develop the center — which will include a library, museum and office and activity space for the foundation — in either Washington Park or Jackson Park.

“The city of Chicago was instrumental in demonstrating to the President and First Lady the advantages of locating the future Obama Presidential Center in the city, and the University of Chicago brought to life the broad potential and vital energy of the South Side,” foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt said in a statement.

The University of Chicago had long been seen as the front-runner and the foundation signaled its interest in the school's South Side proposal last month by commissioning a poll of area residents.

"We are deeply appreciative that President Obama, Mrs. Obama, and the Barack Obama Foundation selected Chicago’s South Side as the home for the Obama Presidential Center, a decision that creates major opportunities for the South Side and the city of Chicago,” University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said in a statement. "We believe opening the Presidential Center will mark a watershed moment for the South Side and the city, serving as a catalyst for economic and cultural opportunities as well as community programming.”

NBC News confirmed last month that the library would be built in Chicago, but Tuesday marked the official announcement. Columbia University in New York and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu had also offered bids.

"With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago not only will we be able to encourage and effect change locally but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago," the president said in a video announcement.

"I’m thrilled to be able to put this resource in the heart of the neighborhood that means the world to me," First Lady Michelle Obama said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the project a "unique opportunity" for Chicago and advocated aggressively for the selection.

"It can be on the South Side. It can be on the West Side, but it cannot be on the Upper West Side of Manhattan," Emanuel, Obama's former White House Chief of Staff, said while campaigning for a second term at City Hall.

The site selection was expected to have been done earlier in the year but Obama delayed his decision in an effort to avoid politicizing his legacy project. He didn't want to inject the library announcement into Emanuel's challenge with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia or be seen as giving Emanuel an unfair advantage, the Associated Press, citing sources, reported in early March.

After Obama's foundation divulged concerns that the University of Chicago couldn't assure access to the park land where it wants to build, Emanuel orchestrated a plan to have the Chicago Parks District board transfer 20 acres to the city for the library's use.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation earlier this month strengthening the city's legal ability to build the project on public park land.

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