Chicago land feud over Obama presidential library plan reflects familiar history

“With President Obama expected to choose the site for his library in coming months, Chicagoans have been engaged in a bitter fight over a proposal to place it in a public park. But this is not the first time a presidential library has been at the center of a land dispute.

In College Station, Texas, residents fought Texas A&M University over plans to move a pig farm to make way for the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Residents in Atlanta tied themselves to trees and lay down in front of bulldozers to stop the city from building a highway through a public park leading to President Carter’s library.

And in Little Rock, Ark., the city evoked eminent domain to make way for President Clinton’s library.

Last month, the Chicago Parks District board voted to transfer roughly 20 acres of parkland to the city if the University of Chicago was chosen to host the Obama library, a move the library’s foundation said “improves Chicago’s bids” for the facility.

The plan has pitted preservationists who oppose the land transfer plan against community residents who support it as a means of economic development. The university’s proposal is to build the library in either Washington Park or Jackson Park.

The dispute has placed the school in a controversial light and given steam to what it considers its biggest rival for the library, Columbia University in New York. The University of Illinois at Chicago remains in the running, as does the University of Hawaii.”

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Glanton, Dahleen. LA Times 15 March 2015.