Several weeks ago, I wrote a column where I stated that I didn’t believe President Barack Obama and his family will come back to Chicago once his presidency is over. And I still strongly feel that way. But what he will bring back to Chicago (hopefully) is his presidential library.
What are the presidential libraries? According to the National Archives website: “These are not traditional libraries, but rather repositories for preserving and making accessible the papers, records, and other historical materials of U.S. presidents. Presidential libraries and museums are great treasures of our nation’s history. They are important sources for historians and other researchers studying our presidents and our history. In addition to archiving and preserving presidential papers and objects, presidential libraries and museums bring history to millions of visitors from around the world.”
Although President Obama represented the South Side when he was a state senator, he went into the presidency as the U.S. senator, representing the entire state of Illinois. Thus I want to be the first one on the bandwagon to suggest the old Brach candy site as the perfect spot to put his presidential library and museum.
Why the Brach site? Well, as the first African-American president, his library and museum will be a drawing card for tourists, researchers, students, teachers, historians and more. The Brach site is accessible by both CTA and Metra rail lines. It has a railroad line behind it that can linked to both Midway and O’Hare airports. It has the land mass needed for the parking of hundreds of cars and tour buses. Plus it is in the 7th Congressional District represented by Congressman Danny K. Davis who supported President Obama for senator and president when the other two congressmen were slow to get on board (Obama once ran against Bobby Rush, and, initially, there was no love lost between the Jackson family and Obama).
The West Side is in dire need of an economic engine to revitalize this side of town with jobs, hotels, shopping centers, and other opportunities. I think it would be an interesting, rewarding and fulfilling challenge to put us in the position of marketing ourselves in an attempt to lure the presidential library here. It would mean cleaning up our act – literally and physically.
To put it in perspective, imagine the number of people who go to the Museum of Science and Industry times five or 10 or even 100. All those people will want to have a place to eat. And the West Side is filled with interests that can bring tourists and their money. We have a number of beautiful parks like Garfield and Columbus, to name a few. We have some of the best examples of greystone buildings, bungalows, and Queen Anne housing stock. We have the Garfield Park Conservatory. We just need to tap into all this with an entrepreneurial mindset and recognize that the culture of African Americans is just as viable to tourists as Greek, Mexican and Chinese culture.
We also need “something” that will bring this side of town together to work toward a goal. The quest for the Olympics would be an example of such a goal (if it hadn’t started out by trying to take the houses of poor black people living near Douglas Park).
The presidential library is different in that it doesn’t need any more land mass than the Cicero Avenue area that already exists.
This is an idea whose time will come soon simply because of the time limitations of being president. What say you?