By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) — In a move that promises to challenge and change Chicago’s construction landscape, the Obama Foundation has announced who will build its presidential library.

A minority construction firm will take the lead. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker takes a look at the new firm in charge.

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“This is incredible,” says Jimmy Akintonde.

He is about to be a part of history. After 16 years of running his own construction firm, where his largest contract was $60 million, Akintonde has joined forces with three other African-American firms to form the Presidential Partners consortium.

This new joint venture will take the lead on the $300 million construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

“We are responsible for building it,” Akintonde explains.

Alone, none of these companies had the experience to win the bid to construct the institution that is slated for Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Together, according to a vice president at the Obama Foundation, it was an easy choice.

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“One, they’re talented,” Mike Strautmanis says. “We know they’ve been involved in other construction projects around the city and the Midwest, so between them all we knew they could handle the complexity.”

President Obama himself signed off on the new team, and Strautmanis says the selection is part of the president’s commitment  to the community.

“We want to set the stage for a new model,” Strautmanis says. “The new model is you don’t have to have a white firm with minority partners on the side. You want to have real diversity: minority firms in the lead with a seat at the table.”

Construction is slated to begin by the end of the year. It will start on the west side of Jackson Park.

The Obama Presidential Center is scheduled to open in 2020.


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Dorothy Tucker