With President Barack Obama expected within weeks to pick the site of his presidential library and museum, the two local finalists are planning a unity breakfast designed to bring West Side and South Side supporters together in a common goal — ensuring that the facility lands in Chicago.
Holding some type of unity event between the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago was initially the idea of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but the details are being worked out by those closely involved with the universities' bids, multiple sources told the Tribune.
The March 16 breakfast will bring together officials from the universities as well as community members who have been involved with the bids, sources said. Details about the location and speakers are still being worked out.
U. of C., which has proposed building the library in a public park on the South Side, is considered the front-runner in the competition, which also includes the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and Columbia University in New York. U. of C. established a community advisory board to provide input on its bid and generate support on the South Side.
UIC has proposed building the library on the West Side. Its bid was made in conjunction with a group of North Lawndale residents.
The unity event is designed to show how much the presidential library means to the entire city and is an indication that the universities would be willing to work together to secure it, sources said.
In related news, the city's Plan Commission is set to vote Monday whether to approve the transfer of about 20 acres from either Washington Park or Jackson Park to the city for the U. of C. bid.
Commission approval would set the stage for a vote by the City Council. On Wednesday, Emanuel called a special council meeting for Tuesday, the day after the Plan Commission vote.
The special meeting notice says the "sole purpose" is to honor late 16th Ward Ald. JoAnn Thompson, who died Feb. 9 of heart failure.
Council rules allow for other matters to be heard, but city officials say the plan is to hold a committee meeting March 11 to consider the land transfer and hold a final council vote at the regular council meeting March 18.