CHICAGO — Maybe the Obamas will never return to live in Chicago after the presidency is over, their global celebrity pulling them toward New York or Los Angeles and away from the unpretentious Midwest. But Chicagoans will always have this: As it was formally announced on Tuesday, their city will be home to his presidential library.
“His journey began on the South Side and now we know that it will come full circle with his library coming home to the South Side of Chicago,” an elated Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Tuesday at a ceremony here, where the Barack Obama Presidential Center, which is to include the library, museum and space for the president’s foundation, will be built.
But as Chicago officially notched a victory over New York and Hawaii, which were also contenders, it immediately turned to the next question: Where, exactly, on the South Side will the library be built?
The Obama Foundation says it is still undecided on the location and will make the announcement in roughly the next six to nine months. Two parks near the University of Chicago’s campus on the South Side are being considered for the library: Washington Park, a 380-acre space that borders several neighborhoods, including Washington Park and Hyde Park; and Jackson Park, which hugs both the neighborhood of Woodlawn and Lake Michigan, and is the site of the Museum of Science and Industry, a golf course, soccer fields and a children’s hospital. The transfer of about 20 acres where the library could be built was approved in February by the Chicago Park District.
The library will be built in a partnership with the University of Chicago, where President Obama once taught law, and could open by 2020 or 2021. Amid the triumphant announcement and buoyant speeches by civic leaders, there are still concerns being raised by some people about the permanent loss of valuable parkland in a highly populated part of the city.