The push to build President Barack Obama’s presidential library officially got underway on Friday with the establishment of a foundation, managed by three of his longtime supporters, to oversee the process.
Chicago businessman Marty Nesbitt, a close personal 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 CEO 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.
Meanwhile, the University of Chicago issued a statement this afternoon confirming its intention to bid for the Obama library and build it at a location off campus. The location of the site has yet to be determined.
“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. "Such a location would reflect the personal and professional lives of the Obamas."
The University of Chicago has put together a coalition of South Side organizations and leaders to work on its bid, according to documents released by the university.
The foundation is responsible for developing a presidential library that reflects President Obama’s values and priorities throughout his career in public service, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, American citizenship, peace, justice and dignity, among other things.
Nesbitt said the process for selecting the site will begin as early as next week when interested bidders will be asked to submit a request for qualifications outlining their capabilities for hosting the library. The field will then be narrowed and the remaining bidders will be invited to submit a proposal for building the library, he said.
He said the foundation expects to make a final announcement in early 2015.
“It will be an open and transparent process,” said Nesbitt. “We want a fair and level playing field.”
In Chicago, a half dozen sites have been jockeying for the library. The University of Chicago, Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as groups in the Bronzeville, Washington Park, Pullman and Southeast Side communities have expressed interest in bidding on the facility.
Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he would like to see only one proposal from the city of Chicago. A single proposal, he said, would strengthen Chicago’s chances of getting the library. Other challenges are expected to come from Columbia University in New York and Hawaii.
Emanuel also issued a statement today reiterating his commitment to securing the library in Chicago.
“With President Obama’s deep roots here in the city – his hometown and where he launched his public life – Chicago is undeniably a natural fit for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Though we’re excited to welcome the President home, we are not resting on our laurels and will put forward a competitive proposal so that his choice is an easy one,” the statement said.