CHICAGO | A real estate developer who wants to turn the one-time site of U.S. Steel Southworks’ plant into a residential and retail community said Tuesday he will give a lakefront plot of land to the University of Chicago if they use it to develop a presidential library and museum for Barack Obama.
Dan McCaffrey, of McCaffrey Interests, has said he’d like to have an Obama presidential library as part of his proposed Lakeside Chicago project on the lakefront from 79th to 87th streets in between the South Chicago and South Shore neighborhoods.
During a community meeting of about 150 residents of the 10th and 7th wards at the Grace Apostolic Faith Church, 8233 S. Exchange Ave., McCaffrey said he’d let the university have control of such a facility.
“If they are chosen, we’re going to give them the land,” he said.
Within Chicago, there are several sites desiring to have the future Obama library – including the former site of Michael Reese Hospital, the Pullman neighborhood, and the campuses of Chicago State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago.
The latter is considered a favorite among some political observers because Obama once lived in the neighborhood and served as an instructor at the law school. Jeremy Manier, director of the news office at the University of Chicago, said the university would like the library to be located in a neighboring community on the South Side.*
But McCaffrey says he believes the fact he can offer a site right on Lake Michigan that offers a clear view of the downtown Chicago skyline is a plus to his site. He also says his site is only about 4 miles from the University of Chicago campus, and is about 2 miles from the South Shore neighborhood home where first lady Michelle Obama was raised.
As to whether anyone will take McCaffrey’s offer seriously, he’s not sure. “It’s a genuine competition” between various sites, he said. “Ultimately, there are only two people who will make the site selection, and I’m not one of them.”
Some political observers have criticized the Lakeside site as being too far from downtown Chicago. McCaffrey disagreed, saying foreign tourists aren’t going to be swayed by another cab ride.
“This might be out-of-the-way for the guy in (north suburban) Winnetka, but it’s not out of the way for most people,” he said.
As far as the Lakeside Chicago project is concerned, project manager Nasutsa Mabwa said that during the past year, an extension of Lake Shore Drive that cuts right through the Lakeside site was completed, and soil was brought up from near Peoria to reinforce the ground in portions of the site that are intended for public park use. The 600-acre site is composed of slag running 40 feet deep, with bedrock underneath.
Mabwa said initial housing units in the 13,575-unit project could be complete by decade’s end. But the total project is expected to take decades to finish – with the final phase scheduled for completion by 2045.
“We’re trying to run a marathon here, not a sprint,” she said.
* Editor's note: This story is corrected from an earlier version.