Kakaako area could be site of Obama library

Potential presidential library site in Kakaako
Potential presidential library site in Kakaako

Hawaii is one step closer to becoming the home of the future Barack Obama presidential library.

Today, the president’s foundation named the four finalists: the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University and University of Hawaii.

If UH is selected, the library would be located on an eight-acre lot between the Children’s Discovery Center and the 53 by the Sea restaurant.

Could the President’s birthplace also become the home of his library? That’s what state officials are hoping for.

“When we did a site visit, I think they were pretty impressed,” said Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. “We talked about the central location, we talked about Kakaako being kind of the heart of Honolulu, and some of the developments that’s planned to take place in the future.”

The foundation is looking for a variety of features, including how the area represents the ideals of the Obama presidency, how Kakaako serves as a dynamic visitor destination, how it can adapt with changes in technology, and even how it supports a healthy lifestyle.

But how will the state address the area’s homeless situation? “We’re talking about a (library) that won’t be constructed until years from now,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, “and by then, I think we’re going to see this homeless issue evolve and change.

“I think what we see today is going to look different by the time that center, which I hope we get, is constructed,” he said.

In its proposal, UH will need to include marketing and financial plans, as well as details on how it will develop the Kakaako site.

The library will include presidential records and artifacts, and will also highlight the state’s multicultural heritage.

“We’re excited about being able to tell Hawaii’s story,” Tsutsui said, “and, hopefully at the end of the day, we’ll be able to tell Barack Obama’s story the only way Hawaii can.”

It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build the library, but most of the money will come from private funds. If Hawaii is selected, the state will work with the Barack Obama Foundation to manage and maintain the facility. The people we talked to had mixed feelings about the news.

“I really don’t want the library, nobody wants development around here,” one beach goer said.

“I think it’s central for everybody to go and do research,” another beach goer said.

UH has until Dec. 11 to submit its proposal. Then early next year, the foundation’s board will share its recommendations with the President and First Lady, who will then make the final decision.

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