Obama Library to bring spark to South Side

Leah Hope Image
Friday, May 1, 2015
Obama library will be built in Chicago
The Obama Presidential Library will be built in Chicago, according to sources close to the Obama Library Project.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More details emerged Friday about the decision to build President Barrack Obama's library in Chicago. It will be located near the University of Chicago campus on the city's South Side.

There has been a lot of concern about any proposed site on the South Side, including the lack of an adult trauma center, as well as the use of public space, but as an example of how things are changing, Friends of the Park issued a statement beginning with, "Welcome home, President Obama."

It is early in a process that seems to be moving forward and toward Chicago.

As visitors check out the presidential libraries in other part of the country, Chicagoans await their turn. Details about the Obama Presidential Library are expected to formally be released in the next two weeks.

Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner is to sign legislation that paves the way for use of Washington Park or Jackson Park to host the library.

"This is about bringing a spark to an area that needs it," said State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Hyde Park). "I was pleased to hear the governor was going to be signing the legislature."

Raoul sponsored the legislation in the Senate and the library would be located in his district.

"I will exhale when I hear the formal announcement," he said. "Nothing is official until it's official."

The National Archive Office of Presidential Libraries coordinates the libraries' development and national programs.

Among the most recent the George W, Bush Presidential Library on the Southern Methodist University campus in Texas and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The National Archive reports more than 2.9 million visitors to the Clinton Library and more than 700,000 to the George W. Bush Library so far.

ABC7 Eyewitness news political analyst Laura Washington says the Obama Library in this urban environment, surrounded by in predominantly African American neighborhoods, could be different.

"I think that the there's a community facet to this that has not existed with the other libraries," she said.

Washington says at this point there is lots of talk of what the library will actually bring but this is the first step.

"I can't imagine it could ever go anywhere other than the city of Chicago," she said. "The Obamas wouldn't be able to come back home, even to visit, if it didn't come to the city of Chicago.

There remain a lot of questions, but the reality is that the library is still years away and there will be a lot more discussion, especially in the next couple weeks.