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CSU bid for Obama library says it would boost community’s economy

WASHINGTON — Chicago State University is making a strong argument in its 125-page bid for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, that the library could revive a community that has more economic woes than any of its Chicago competitors in the running for the facility.

“Placing the OPL on the Chicago State University campus would constitute a homecoming. What clearly distinguishes Chicago State University from other contenders is that its location on the 95th Street corridor marks the place where Barack Obama began his neighborhood organizing, which strongly influenced the tenor of his presidency,” the bid says.

“It is also close to the South Shore neighborhood home of First Lady Michelle Obama. Equally as important, the OPL would bring enormous benefits to an economically depressed area. A library is the heart of a community; a Presidential Library is the beating heart of democracy. 



“The OPL, along with future expansion plans for the University, will help to revitalize the long-neglected Far South Side as well as the larger Chicago region. Moreover, it will allow people from across the city and the nation to experience the historical and cultural riches of the Far South Side,” CSU says in its pitch.

Bids for the library must be delivered to the Barack Obama Presidential Foundation by Monday. Those making the first cut will be asked to submit more detailed plans, due later this summer.

The  private University of Chicago is the front-runner; CSU is a state school, as is the University of Illinois at Chicago, which will submit a bid on Monday. Proposals also are expected from a Bronzeville group, developer Dan McCaffery, Hawaii and Columbia University in New York.

In its document released in March soliciting presentations, the Obama Foundation said bidders have to show support from area leaders and to make the case that the library could serve as an “economic engine” to help the surrounding community.

CSU also has a unique claim that it emphasizes in its bid: President Barack Obama started his career as a community organizer on the far South Side of Chicago.

“It will impart the early history of a young man who found his life’s purpose working as a community organizer on Chicago’s Far South Side. In these humble beginnings, his ethics were honed as he fought for social justice, starting him on a path that would lead him to the highest office in the land.”

A lot of the emphasis in the bid was on leveraging the economic impact.

“Locating the OPL at Chicago State University would expand the economic footprint of the City of Chicago to the long neglected Far South Side neighborhoods that have not yet benefited from the economic recovery,” the bid states.

That the area around CSU needs help is clear: The bid states that the ZIP codes near the school have a high jobless rate and no prospects for another major development on the scope of the library.

CSU estimates that the library could provide an immediate shot in the arm with the estimated 3,500 construction jobs the project would generate, as well as a giant boost in local real estate investment. 

The CSU bid contains testimonials from a plethora of civic and elected officials as well as sense of its vision for the project and how it would mesh with its academic offerings. The school is offering two potential sites on its campus: the northeast corner of the campus on 95th Street between King Drive and Cottage Grove and the southwest corner, near 99th and King Drive.

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