Chicago, New York, Hawaii on Obama library's short list

Barack Obama
Pete Souza | The White House

Chicago, New York and Honolulu have made the short list to host Barack Obama's future presidential library.

The Barack Obama Foundation, which is developing and raising money for the massive legacy project, announced Monday that it has selected four universities to compete for the library, culled from an initial list of 13 applications submitted earlier this year. The University of Hawaii, in Obama's birthplace Honolulu, made the cut, as did New York's Columbia University. The University of Chicago, where Obama used to teach, and the University of Illinois at Chicago round out the list.

The four institutions will now have until December to submit formal, in-depth proposals detailing their vision for the library. The foundation's board plans to vet those proposals before presenting their recommendations in early 2015 to the president and first lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas will then make the final decision.

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"These four potential partners have come the farthest in meeting our criteria and have each demonstrated a strong vision for the future Obama Presidential Library," said Marty Nesbitt, Obama's longtime friend and the board's chairman.

Who didn't make the cut? A handful of other Chicago-based groups, including activists in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, a cultural landmark for African-Americans. Another bid from advocates who wanted to build the library at the former U.S. Steel South Works site alongside Lake Michigan.

Building the library, which will house the repository for Obama's presidential records and artifacts, is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and will serve as a permanent monument to Obama's legacy. If other presidential libraries are a guide, there may be an accompanying presidential center, foundation or policy institute that could help Obama coordinate his post-presidential activities.

Susan Sher, Mrs. Obama's former chief of staff and now a top University of Chicago official, said her institution has already discussed the possibility for collaborating with two of the other institutions that made the short list, although she declined to specify which ones. She said the university would spend the next few months gathering more input from community and cultural groups.

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"We'll be working on making the case for what the South Side would bring to the Obamas, in terms of a library that would help further their legacy and what the library would do for the South Side of Chicago," Sher said in an interview.

In its 18-page request for proposals, released Monday, the foundation asked for detailed proposals that include how the project would be managed and organized, what financial contributions the institutions or their partners can offer, and how much the institution plans to pay any consultants. The foundation also wants to know about opportunities for academic collaboration, diversity goals and potential marketing strategies.

Although all of the institutions chosen have already spent months preparing their pitches, their work has only started. The foundation also wants in-depth analyses of potential building sites, including development costs, traffic studies, tax and zoning status, and public transportation options. It's also asking for specifics about demographics and economic trends within a 5-mile radius of proposed sites.

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In March, the foundation said the library would need to accommodate more than 20,000 cubic feet of unclassified documents, 804 cubic feet of audio-visual records and 15 thousand cubic feet for artifacts—a space about as large as the Oval Office.