CHICAGO — The push to build Barack Obama’s presidential library began officially Friday with the establishment of a foundation managed by three longtime supporters to oversee the process.
Chicago businessman Marty Nesbitt, a friend of the president who served as national treasurer for Obama’s two presidential campaigns, will head the Barack H. Obama Foundation. He is joined by Julianna Smoot, a former senior staff member in Obama’s administration and the deputy campaign manager for his re-election, and Kevin Poorman, president and Chief Executive Officer of PSP Capital Partners, an investment firm founded by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker 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.
While Chicago will be competing with other cities and states, including New York and Hawaii, to get the library, the University of Chicago is considered by many observers as the front-runner.
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Soon after the foundation was announced, the University of Chicago confirmed its intention to bid for the library and build it at a location off campus. The site has yet to be determined, but a source said the Washington Park neighborhood, in historic Bronzeville on the South Side, is among those under consideration.
“I strongly believe the Obama Presidential Library would be ideal for one of our neighboring communities on the South Side of Chicago,” University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer said in a statement.
The university has pulled together a coalition of business leaders and representatives from community organizations to work on the bid in an advisory capacity, officials said.
While the decision on the location will be made by Obama and the first lady, the foundation will lay the ground work and sort through the list of potential bidders, Nesbitt said.
The foundation is responsible for developing a library that reflects Obama’s values and priorities, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship and promoting peace, justice and dignity around the world, among other things.
Nesbitt said the process for selecting the site will begin this week, when bidders will be asked to submit a request for qualifications outlining their capabilities for hosting the library. The field will then be narrowed and remaining bidders will be invited to submit a proposal, he said.
Among the criteria for choosing the site will be the bidder’s ability to raise funds for library construction, which some experts said could cost up to $500 million.
Nesbitt said the foundation expects to make a final announcement in early 2015.
In Chicago, a half dozen sites have been jockeying for the library. In addition to the University of Chicago, Chicago State University and the University of Illinois, Chicago, also plan to bid on the library. Representatives in Pullman, Woodlawn and the Southeast Side have expressed interest in hosting the facility.