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Emanuel To Competing Chicago Groups: Only One Bid For Obama Library

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(CBS) – The Emanuel administration intends to help coordinate one formal bid for President Obama’s future library and museum, even though several proposals were being developed by competing groups.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that City Hall will get involved in drafting a formal plan. His remarks come as Chicago – once considered a shoo-in for Obama’s inevitable post-presidency project – faces a new outside competitor, Columbia University in New York, where the president was an undergrad.

Obama’s ties to Chicago are strong, even though he recently hinted he may not move back here after exiting the White House in 2017. He got his start as a community organizer on the South Side, launched his legislative career here and was a lecturer at the University of Chicago.

The U of C, where Obama allies are currently based, had been considered the front-runner locally. But grass-roots organizers have pushed their own locations, including Bronzeville and Pullman, saying those neighborhoods could benefit from Obama-related tourism. Two state universities – the University of Illinois-Chicago and Chicago State University – also had been working on their own proposals.

Emanuel’s press office on Monday confirmed the mayor wants to see a single proposal to ensure the project ends up in Chicago.

“Chicago is undeniably a natural fit for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum, but we are not resting on our laurels and will present a competitive proposal that showcases the merits of a Chicago location for the Obama Presidential Library,” Sarah Hamilton, a mayoral spokeswoman, said in a written statement.

Obama, perhaps as soon as this week, is expected to identify the people who will begin raising the hundreds of millions in private dollars needed to construct his library and museum. The complex would ultimately be turned over to the National Archives, which currently spends about $70 million annually to operate 13 presidential libraries across the country.

Also vying for the Obama library is his home state of Hawaii. The president and his wife are expected to make a decision before leaving the White House. The Obamas could choose to build a library and museum in one location and a not-for-profit foundation elsewhere.

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