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U of C's 10 Acre Land Grab May Add Up to Obama Library Site

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The University of Chicago has gone on a real estate shopping spree in Washington Park over the past six years, according to DNAinfo, grabbing 26 properties valued at $18 million that form what could be a potential Obama Library site near the intersection of Garfield Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive. When it's merged with some nearby city-owned lots, the patchwork of land adds up to 10 acres, with just a university-owned gas station left to demolish. With today's deadline for proposals looming, could this park-adjacent parcel be the place?

Like other potential bids, including New York's and the North Lawndale proposal, economic redevelopment is a key selling point. A University of Chicago study found it might add up to 1,900 new jobs. But the school's land grab, which at one point targeted speculators betting on the proposed stadium that was part of the city's failed Olympic bid, has also come with plenty of controversy. Some have profited handsomely from selling, such as Saib Sweis, who made $1.1 million selling Jardan Food and Liquor. But many in Washington Park have felt the school's "land banking," which started well before anybody was considering a library, has only produced an arts incubator with Theaster Gates, as opposed to the businesses the neighborhood needs, like a grocery store to replace what the school already purchased.

While the South Side bid certainly plays the hometown card, Columbia University's New York bid may have the edge in terms of real estate, according to a Tribune report. The school's move into West Harlem began in 2009, and they've already gone through negotiating land acquisition, zoning and state and local approvals. Mayor Emanuel has pledged to speed the approval process to help with both Chicago bids.

·U. of C. sees tough competition from New York for Obama library [Tribune]
·U. of C. Buys 26 Properties on South Side Ahead of Obama Library Decision [DNAinfo]
· Previous Obama Library coverage [Curbed]