A video posted on the website of developer McCaffery Interests, featuring former Mayor Richard Daley and other city officials, asks viewers to envision the Obama presidential library in the planned neighborhood, along with a medical complex and a technology center.
"I have a couple of interns looking into it so they can educate us on how this will happen," said Dan McCaffery, chairman and CEO of McCaffery Interests, the firm chosen to redevelop the former Children's Memorial Hospital campus in Lincoln Park and Niketown on Michigan Avenue. "Will I put my hand up in the air and wave a flag around and say, 'Look at me?' Of course."
Another possible site mentioned is Washington Park, which borders the University of Chicago.
Ultimately, Obama will decide where to build a library. Clinton took an active role in the development of his library, starting work on it at the beginning of his second term. Bush waited until 2005 to select a site.
Wherever it lands, it won't come cheap. Clinton's library cost $165 million. The George W. Bush Foundation raised more than $300 million for his. A law passed by Congress in 2008 requires each president's foundation, which raises private money to build the library, to place 60 percent of the cost of the library in an endowment to offset the government's operating and maintenance costs once it opens. The cost of Obama's library could spiral to $500 million, depending on how elaborate it is, library experts say.
But if it follows the precedent set by other presidential libraries, wherever the archives are, growth likely will follow.
According to Susan Donius, director of the National Archives' Office of Presidential Libraries, they bring jobs and can be an engine for growth.
"In many areas, you have a library reaching 200,000 to 300,000 visitors a year," Donius said. "That means people are coming into the city and spending travel and tourism dollars."
The Clinton library was a boon to downtown Little Rock when it opened in 2004, turning a grungy area of abandoned warehouses and defunct railroad tracks into a 28-acre library park including a massive glass and steel structure surrounded by sparkling fountains. The facility has sparked an estimated $2 billion in new projects in the area, including an office and condominium complex, a technology center, restaurants and hotels, according to city officials.
In Illinois, all one has to do is look at Springfield, home of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, to see the potential impact. Though the facility is not part of the National Archives and is run by the state, it has the highest attendance of all of the presidential libraries in the country.
Though attendance has declined in recent years at presidential libraries across the country, the Lincoln library continues to attract nearly 300,000 visitors per year, according to Executive Director Eileen Mackevich. She estimates the library's annual economic impact at more than $24 million.
While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not spoken publicly about the possibility of an Obama library in Chicago, it could help him reach his goal of attracting 50 million visitors to the city annually by 2020. The mayor also wants to elevate Chicago from No. 10 to among the top five most popular U.S. cities for overseas travelers.
"It wouldn't matter where it lands. Any time we can get something new into the neighborhoods, it's great," said Meghan Risch, spokeswoman for the city's tourism bureau, Choose Chicago. "If it does go forward, it would be great for the city, especially the areas south and west of downtown."
Jerry Roper, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said geographically, Chicago is the best choice without question.
"To be successful, it means people get an opportunity to view it," Roper said. "Flying all the way to Hawaii is costly and you'd have to tie it to a vacation. Here you can drive to the library and visit because you're already in the city for a meeting or convention or the lights festival."