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Obama unveils plans to build presidential center in Chicago

CHICAGO — Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled design plans for his Chicago presidential center, which he hopes will serve as a training site for future generations of leaders.

The Obama Presidential Center will be built in the 500-acre (200-hectare) Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side. The park was first developed as the site of the 1893 World’s Fair.

The development will feature three buildings – a museum, forum and library – forming a campus around a plaza. The museum, the tallest of the three structures, will include public areas, offices and classrooms in addition to exhibition space, the Obama Foundation said in a statement.

“What we want this to be is the world’s premier institution for training young people and leadership to make a difference in their communities, in their countries and in the world. That is our goal,” Obama said at the design unveiling in Chicago.

Obama has slowly started to return to the public eye since leaving office in January. Last month he moderated an event at the University of Chicago during his first major appearance since leaving the White House.

The project will take around four years to complete, Obama said, but educational programs will begin this year. Obama said Wednesday he would donate $2 million to a summer jobs programs in the community.

Obama grew up in Hawaii and went to college in New York and California, but owns a home and spent most of his pre-White House political career in Chicago, starting as a community activist before becoming an Illinois state senator and then a U.S. senator.

Chicago beat out proposals by New York City and Hawaii to be the home of the library.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects Partners of New York and Interactive Design Architects of Chicago were named last year as the firms that will lead the design of the center.

Residents of Chicago’s South Side, which includes many poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods, hope jobs and investment come with the library. Some small businesses are concerned they may be forced out of the area if rental prices go up.

The center could be a transformational project for the community, Obama said.

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