The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) celebrated with the rest of Chicago in September when the Barack Obama Foundation announced that two of the four finalists for the site of the Barack Obama Presidential Library—University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago—are in our city. The Library belongs here, in the only city in America that can lay claim to so many milestones in the President's illustrious career.
In August 2014, as Chicago candidates prepared to put in their bids to host the Library, MPC submitted a letter to the Foundation and potential Chicago-area hosts that offered a number of recommendations for site selection. We weighed in because the selection of the Library's site and its development have great potential to advance a number of city and regional goals, shared by President Obama and the First Lady: creating job opportunities and sparking economic development in disinvested communities, modeling energy efficiency, and expanding the region's cultural assets, among others.
In summary, our letter stated that the Library should be well-served by multiple transit modes and situated in an area with strong potential to anchor neighborhood economic development as well as spark additional investments that strengthen nearby infrastructure and community amenities. We also stated our preference that the museum not be situated in a park because, once lost, park space is difficult to replace. Read our full recommendations as stated in the August letter.
As community plans proceeded, and as the Foundation narrowed their pool of candidates, MPC listened to proponents and residents. While several of the Chicago sites that advanced are in a park, MPC understands that locating the Library in these places still has great potential to bring value to surrounding neighborhoods—and the city and region as a whole. MPC continues to strongly support bringing the Library to Chicago, its rightful home.
MPC reiterates that the chosen site must be well-served by public transportation, and that additional investments in nearby land and infrastructure should be coordinated to maximize public access and benefit. Park space should not be the first choice—finding a new use for vacant land would be ideal. However, if the chosen site depletes existing park space, we strongly encourage local partners, investors and the City of Chicago to replace that lost asset with new green space nearby, so that the Library is truly a net gain for everyone.
When its doors open, the Barack Obama Presidential Library will be one of only 14 presidential libraries in the nation. MPC stands ready—as we have for 80 years—to support quality, well-planned development in Chicago and across our region. We hope to celebrate the Library’s Chicago home in the near future.