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There are also two potential bids on the Far South Side, one led by Chicago State University and the other by a group promoting the historic Pullman neighborhood. It was in those areas that Obama established his earliest roots in the city as a community organizer in the mid-1980s, setting up job training programs and defending the rights of public housing tenants.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, on the Near West Side, is also taking a shot, as is a real-estate developer pushing the former U.S. Steel Corp. site on the southeast lakefront.

The Far South Side is a longshot given its distance from downtown, lack of transportation options and the gang violence that persists there.

And presidential libraries aren’t guaranteed to lift the local economy.

“Just sticking it out in a field somewhere and thinking that it will be an economic-development engine, it does not work,” said Skip Rutherford, who oversaw planning for the Clinton Presidential Center and Park, which helped transform a high-crime area of Little Rock, Ark.

The Clinton library achieved that in part by choosing a site next to the most heavily traveled interstate in Arkansas and one that was within walking distance of the state’s largest convention center as well as hotels and restaurants. The $160 million project has resulted in more than $2 billion in additional development around an old warehouse district, Rutherford said.

Presidents sometimes let emotion overrule reason and select library locations that are sentimental to them - like a remote birthplace, for example - over sites that would sustain larger numbers of visitors and have a bigger impact, Rutherford said.

Besides being the official repository for presidential records and artifacts, the libraries often have presidential centers that serve as vehicles for ex-presidents to promote new policies and projects on the national and international stage.

Because Obama is leaving office at age 55, he will have potentially decades to pursue such initiatives, and he may choose a location that best suits that mission.

About a week ago, Obama supporters officially launched a foundation to develop the library. The foundation leader, Marty Nesbitt, is a close Obama friend from Chicago.

According to Nesbitt, Obama wants a library that reflects his values and priorities, including expanding economic opportunity, promoting peace and dignity abroad and inspiring the ethic of American citizenship.

“No specific site, institution, city or state is advantaged over another at this point,” Nesbitt told The Associated Press in an interview when the foundation was launched.

Specific groups will be invited to submit proposals in May.

Those advocating for the Far South Side say that location would make a powerful statement from a president who speaks about extending “ladders of opportunity” to the middle class.

Tiffany Hightower grew up in the area and is executive director of the not-for-profit Developing Communities Project Inc., a job Obama held in the mid-1980s. She’s part of a group trying to bring the library to Chicago State University.

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