Foundation unveils vision for future Obama library
- Article by: JOSH LEDERMAN
- Associated Press
- March 20, 2014 - 4:35 PM
WASHINGTON — Want your city, university or nonprofit group to be chosen to host President Barack Obama's presidential library? Now's the time to get started.
The foundation that will develop and choose the site for Obama's future library asked interested parties Thursday to submit their initial proposals. The "request for qualifications" offers the most detailed look to date at what the president and first lady Michelle Obama are seeking for what will be the permanent monument to their White House legacy.
Illinois, New York and Hawaii are all expected to compete for Obama's library, which is anticipated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, attract a flurry of visitors and drive economic development in the surrounding community. Chicago and Honolulu have been working on their own proposals for years.
Those and other communities will have until June 16 to submit details about their proposed sites, including current zoning rules, topographical surveys, tourism statistics and information about accessibility to transportation. Over the summer, the Barack Obama Foundation will score those proposals, then cull the list and invite selected groups to submit more formal, detailed applications.
Once the final applications are scored, the foundation will make primary and secondary location recommendations to the project's leadership before making a presentation to the president and Mrs. Obama in the fall. The Obamas will make the final decision, and the foundation plans to announce the winner in the first months of 2015.
"We're completely open-minded about what we might get back," Marty Nesbitt, the Chicago businessman and longtime Obama friend who chairs the foundation, said in an interview. "We haven't ruled in anything or ruled out anything."
Specifics about what the future library will entail were detailed in a 70-page "request for qualifications" released by the foundation on Thursday and sent by Nesbitt to groups that have already indicated their interest. The foundation said the space the National Archives and Records Administration projects will be required to accommodate Obama's records includes:
—More than 20,000 cubic feet of unclassified documents, or about one-quarter of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
—Another 5,676 cubic feet of classified documents, and 804 cubic feet of audio-visual records.
—Fifteen thousand cubic feet for Obama's artifacts, or about the same amount of space as the Oval Office takes up.
That represents a decline from previous presidential libraries, which NARA attributes to the move toward using emails and electronic records in lieu of hardcopies of the past.
Obama's future library should be a versatile, community-enhancing institution as well as a "new international destination," the foundation said. The facility and its programming should embody the principles that Obama has promoted during his presidency and his campaign, it says.
Among those principles: empowerment, inclusivity and expanded economic opportunity. Inspiring the "ethic of citizenship" and promoting peace and justice throughout the world are also high priorities, the group said.
Much more than a repository for documents, most presidential libraries include educational programming, retail and dining space, a museum facility with permanent and rotating exhibits, and versatile space that the community can use, the foundation noted.
In a nod to aesthetics and design, the foundation said a core principle would be for the library to embody "principles of biomimicry to create a living building." Biomimicry draws on inspiration from nature — plants and animals — to make man-made structures more efficient and natural.
Presidential libraries often have an accompanying presidential center as a vehicle for ex-presidents to promote policies and coordinate humanitarian efforts after leaving office. Some groups already vying for Obama's library have proposed that he build a center or institute in one location and the library in another.
Planning to submit a proposal? You'll need to send four hard copies in bound, 8.5-inch by 11-inch books, to Bob Bauer, Obama's former White House counsel and top lawyer for his presidential campaign. Bauer is now serving as general counsel for the foundation.
Initially formed as the Barack H. Obama Foundation, the nonprofit recently changed its name to remove Obama's middle initial, which stands for Hussein. Nesbitt said the foundation wanted to eliminate the potential for confusion with other similarly named foundations.
AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.
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