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Clinton Presidential Center prepares to open
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The buzz builds daily in Little Rock for the Clinton Presidential Center, opening Nov. 18.
From busboys to friends of Bill Clinton, everyone wants a ticket to an event during opening-week festivities. The grand opening of the center — which houses the Clinton Library — has attracted positive RSVPs from all of living former presidents and President Bush, as well as celebrities including Ben Affleck, Bono and Barbra Streisand, and foreign dignitaries.
Singer Aretha Franklin will perform Nov. 16.
“This will be a great, memorable event for Little Rock,” said Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton Presidential Foundation. “I think the world will see that Little Rock is a great tourist destination and that the presidential center will be an attraction the world wants to visit.”
The complex will be the country’s 12th presidential library site. It will be the most expensive in the National Archives’ system, with the most material. Eight C-5 cargo planes brought the Clinton collection from Washington to Little Rock in 2001.
The 30-acre center is the largest and most expensive presidential library to date. The city of Little Rock bought the land — an old warehouse site — for $16 million to lure Mr. Clinton to select the spot in 1997. At $165 million, the library is the most costly private construction project undertaken in central Arkansas.
James Polshek, a New York architect, designed the building to resemble a glass bridge to the 21st century. Ralph Appelbaum, exhibit designer for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, designed the museum exhibits for the Clinton facility.
Because Mr. Clinton was the first president of the Internet age, tourists can expect a heavy use of technology. A replica of the White House Cabinet room will have interactive stations that tell visitors about Cabinet members from Mr. Clinton’s eight years in office. An interactive timeline will highlight each day of Mr. Clinton’s presidency.
The library is built near Interstate 30, one of the most traveled highways in Arkansas. It is within 10 minutes of the Little Rock National Airport. A highlight will be a replica of the Oval Office with the decor from Mr. Clinton’s White House. Even the ivy plant that sat on the Oval Office mantel will be the same. When Mr. Clinton left office, the staff snipped the ivy and replanted it. That ivy has been growing since then.
The Clinton Foundation decided not to open a gift store on the library site. Instead, the Clinton museum store will open in the River Market district near the library.
“We want this restaurant not to compete with downtown business, but enhance it,” said Tyler Denton, the foundation’s director of marketing and special events. “We will have a chef and open for Sunday brunch. Customers who want to enjoy the cafe won’t be charged for museum entry.”
The Clinton Library has served as an anchor for more than $1 billion in investments in Little Rock’s downtown. The revitalization of the River Market area has attracted new hotels, including the Peabody and Marriott, restaurants, bars and a light-rail system for the area.
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