Chicago Falling Out of Favor for Obama Presidential Library

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Associated Press

Both of the Chicago bids for the Barack Obama Presidential Library are falling flat. The foundation tasked with selecting the final site for the president’s library has New York as a leading contender instead of Obama’s hometown, a report says.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, both the bid from the University of Chicago and that from the University of Illinois at Chicago have fallen out of favor with the committee overseeing the choice of sites, leaving the bid from Columbia University in New York as a leading contender.

In the case of the University of Chicago, the school does not actually own the land upon which it suggests that the library would be built and, in the case of the University of Illinois, upcoming changes to the school’s leadership leaves the committee with questions over the stability of the school’s library proposal.

“In contrast,” the Sun-Times wrote, “Columbia University owns the land it is offering to the foundation, has stable leadership and the mega financial muscle at least the equal to the University of Chicago.”

This news has left the University of Chicago scrambling with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an attempt to pin down the land deal ahead of the March deadline the library committee has set for its final decision.

Apparently the land in the University of Chicago’s proposal is currently owned by the Chicago Park District, but since it has never been officially transferred to the university, the uncertainty over its status has left the library committee cold on the school’s proposal.

On top of that, the school has been very secretive over its land negotiations with the city, and since the whole deal is all wrapped up in volatile Chicago politics, this uncertainty has caused the library committee to look with disfavor upon the University of Chicago’s proposal.

So, despite that Barack Obama and wife Michelle had made Chicago their home in the decade before his run for the White House, the city is falling behind in the quest for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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