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Obama Presidential Library Hot Topic At City Committee Hearing

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The City of Chicago Committee on Housing & Real Estate prepares for a meeting Wednesday, March 11, 2015. The main discussion was the Obama Presidential Library proposal. Jose Baltierra Photo.

Chicago’s bid for the Obama Presidential Library is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Committee on Housing and Real Estate unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District.

The agreement will allow the City of Chicago to acquire land needed to build the Obama Presidential Library, if the city is selected.

“Chicago has to win; Obama comes from our city,” said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett. “We need to continue to put ourselves in a competitive position.”

Carol Adams, former CEO of The DuSable Museum of African American History, said the library would add a crown jewel to Chicago, while Commissioner Michelle Boone testified that the library would enhance Chicago as a world-class city.

There was no argument among participants about whether the library should be in Chicago, rather, many citizens at the meeting debated whether it should be located in Washington Park or Jackson Park.

Some said it should not be in either location.

“There is no better fitting place than on King Drive,” said, Melanie Moore of Friends of the Park, a nonprofit organization that focuses on preservation of Chicago’s parks.

Moore was among a handful of people at Wednesday’s hearing who opposed building the library at the Washington & Jackson locations.

Also opposing the planned sites was Shirley Newsom, University of Chicago Advisory Board Representative and president of the South East Chicago Commission, a community based organization encompassing Chicago’s Hyde Park, Woodlawn, Washington Park, Kenwood, and Oakland neighborhoods.

Newsome said she opposes the ordinance in order to protect public lands.

“The transfer of public lands violates public trust,” she said.

But opposition testimony was overshadowed by the more than two dozen people who showed up to support the Washington and Jackson locations. This included a 96-year-old Chicago citizen who received a round of applause after giving his testimony in favor of the library.

Andrew Mooney, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, suggested that the two proposed sites should be combined, giving Chicago a unified proposal.

Supporters also touted the benefits the city would reap from the library.

5th Ward Alderman Leslie Harrison said the project would bring 3,000 jobs alone to Chicago’s South Side.

City leaders said they are doing all they can to bring the library and all of its advantages to Chicago.

“We will work to no ends to make sure that happens,” said Carrie Austin, 34th Ward Alderman and a committee member.

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